25 August 2014

The Sheriff of Loving County

This New York Times article about radioactive waste and a very small county in west Texas included the photo shown above.

You might spot the detail that sent me on a research journey which ended at this Find-a-Grave page about Edna Reed Clayton Dewees, along with some Wikipedia entries. And that led to this set-up for a series of murder mysteries—

It’s January 1945 in a very small county in west Texas called Loving, tucked alongside the Pecos River. Twenty-three-year-old Edna Reed has been working at Pecos Army Air Field, having previously contributed to the war effort by operating a lathe in a Fort Worth aircraft plant. But before those jobs, Edna was Deputy District Clerk in another county, so she knows the levers of the local government.

When the position of Loving County sheriff becomes vacant and there aren’t enough young men around, the town fathers ask Edna to accept the post. Then she finds that she likes being sheriff. So, even though no woman has ever been elected sheriff in Texas, Edna Reed decides to run for the job.

For a wide-open place, Loving has a shady history. It was first incorporated by out-of-state businessmen who fled with all the official records when their fraud was exposed, then reincorporated in 1931 as its population was rising suddenly.

Now the war has ended and soldiers are coming back to Loving County. How will the local establishment deal with those men’s new ambitions, values, and troubles? Does any of them want to become sheriff, or become Edna’s husband? The place has very little reported crime, but what secrets lurk in its past? Can young Edna Reed keep the peace in Loving County without carrying a gun?

And so far, all that is nonfiction.

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