Charlie Alcorn always knew he wanted to write a Texas road novel. And, of course, it had to follow the football season.
“‘Beneath the Sands of Monahans’ is set out in the Permian Basin in West Texas and it’s a story about Archie Weesatche, the hero, and he has to raise $650,000 to help his ex-lover Josephine secure $6.5 million in cartel cash,” Alcorn said. “So he bets on high school and college football. That’s how he is going to raise the money. And so he takes a long Texas road trip to many, many football games across the state.”
Alcorn’s book covers a lot of ground — from six-man football in Mason to Presidio, Marfa and all the way up to the football cathedrals in Round Rock.
“I was a sportswriter out at the Big Spring Herald in 1986 and ’88, simultaneously with Buzz Bissinger when he was out there writing ‘Friday Night Lights.’ So I was very inspired,” Alcorn said. “I played football in college and in high school and just loved Texas high school football.”
Alcorn teaches creative writing at the University of Houston, and five years ago he sat down and started to write at least a page a day. When he had a draft, he took a sabbatical to put the finishing touches on the novel.
“It was a real process. I had a story collection published in 2011 and I was all on my own and hardly had any editing. And this was a collaborative process with eight editors that took a look at it and readers, so a much more polished product than my short stories,” he said. “I think one of the characters is quintessentially Texan. She is a high school dropout from Forsan, Texas. She is Archie’s bodyguard. She’s been hired and she’s a pistolero. She’s a great gun handler. And she does take care of Archie very well. And Archie, as a result, falls in love with her.”
Alcorn said he hopes his book shows people a different side of small town Texas.
“Texas high school football brings the community together. And the smaller the community, the more they follow their team,” he said. “It’s just one of the most endearing things about Texas, I think. And as a sportswriter out in Big Spring, I really got a first hand experience with that and the joy that high school football brings to the community.”