Finding passion is the top priority when you are preparing to write a book. At least, that’s what I say. My wife and I were in a bookstore at the San Francisco Airport waiting to fly home. I was searching for an idea when I stumbled onto a book detailing the history of the city titled The Barbary Coast. Already fascinated by the Bay Area, I was hooked. By the time we got back to Dallas, Ox in the Culvert was in the works.
I already had a title in mind. Back when I was the head coach at Plano, the defensive coach and I worked on Sunday mornings before the rest of the staff reported. We both had kids at home, and we both hated being away from our families.
The defensive coach was a Godly man. At our lowest point, he would shout, “When your Ox is in the Culvert, you have to push him out!” He was referring to Luke 14:5 in the New Testament. Take it from me, when you are coaching a high school football team, your Ox is in the Culvert a lot. I decided to make that bible verse part of the turning point of the story.
I started hanging out at the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame every time I passed through Waco. I got to know the Rangers up close and personal in my own way. Quickly, their weapons became some of my characters.
The novel is set in the 1850’s. That period falls between the Civil War and the California Gold Rush. That was a time span in American history which is often overlooked. It was important to me to bring it to life.
I stumbled onto a story about a Comanche raid in the Hill Country of Central Texas. Though it was hard to find much written history about the event, it was easy to picture it in my mind. One night I was watching a Bruce Springsteen video when a song called Worlds Apart came blaring into my earplugs. It fit perfectly into the terror of the raid, and that was when I really started gaining momentum.
Get to know Texas Ranger Ray Andrews, his buddy stuttering Henry Jones, lady sharp shooter Junior Hoskins and gambler Ben Fields.
Along the way, you will meet Sarah Thomas and her father, the Reverend William, ruthless outlaw Sores Aguilar, sailing captain Cyrus Welch, assassin Suk Too and the beautiful coin dealer Georgia Tipps.
The book kicks off with my interpretation of how James Marshall discovered gold in the Cullumah Valley of Northern California. Most people don’t even know there was another “gold rush” going on in Australia at the same time. A stagecoach ride starts in Austin that travels through the great Southwest and into California. There are also side trips to Hong Kong and back.
I tried to get it all in there. The Gold Rush, the opium problem, shanghaiing sailors and the great migration west are just a few of the subplots. It all fit into the culture that created the most eccentric city in America, San Francisco.
It’s ironic though. Even with all the theatrics, Ox in the Culvert is really just a simple love story. I hope you like it.

-Gerald Brence

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