Interview: Shelton L. Williams, author of COVEY JENCKS

 BNR Covey Jencks JPG




Shelton L. Williams

Genre: Mystery / Social Thriller

Publisher: Southern Owl Publications, LLC

Publication Date: February 10, 2018

Number of Pages: 229 pages


Cover med res Covey Jencks


Covey Jencks is a murder mystery with a social conscience. Set in West Texas with a cast of colorful and humorous characters, it follows a young lawyer from Washington, DC back to his hometown of Odessa, Texas. He wants and needs to solve a murder case from 1979 in 1993. The problem is that the Odessa Police Department has already found its man, and no one wants to re-visit the case of a black prostitute whose life was seemingly of no consequence to anyone. But Freddie Mae Johnson’s death matters to Covey and eventually he discovers an old flame, JayJay Qualls, who also knew and loved Freddie. Together they undertake an investigation that uncovers not only the truth about Freddie but also the secrets of Odessa’s south side, Mexican gangs, a Boston mobster, and the fallacy of unexamined assumptions. Finding out who killed Freddie is one thing, but preventing their own demise is quite another! 






I just love Covey Jencks and JayJay Qualls! They are a modern couple who remind me of Nick and Nora in West Texas. Characters, crimes, and social commentary leap off the page. Shelly can tell a story! Deborah Crombie, author of the award-winning mysteries of Gemma James/Duncan Kincaid

I loved the story, the writing, and the prospects for future Covey Jencks adventures, but what I love the most, as an African- American author and documenter of human experience, is the proof that this work presents of the inextricability of Black and White lives in America. Sharon T. Freeman, CEO of Gems of Wisdom Consulting, author of 24 books, and global development expert

A dead body and a miscarriage of justice? What is a West Texas boy to do? Well, Covey Jencks, an Odessa native who knows some secrets, spurns his job with a Washington, DC law firm, and heads back to his hometown to solve the crime. Prudence Mackintosh, Contributing Editor, Texas Monthly, author of Thundering Sneakers and more

“I have unfinished business in Odessa, by God, Texas.” And with that, we are off on a wild ride with Covey Jencks as he tries to find out who killed Freddie Mae Johnson, a black prostitute, when Covey was a junior in high school. If you like your detectives to be misfits who chafe at the social rules, idealists who try to find the order behind apparent chaos, attractors of a cast of characters as contradictory as the detective is, you will grab hold of Covey and hang on until the end of the ride. When you get there, you’ll know for sure that you’ve been somewhere. Carol Daeley, Professor Emerita of English, Austin College.





Where did the name “Covey Jencks” come from?

The name Covey Jencks has been with me for over 30 years. The original unpublished version of the book that became Washed in the Blood had Covey as a minor character. That book but not that name went away. Covey’s personal history is an amalgam of my family history, some aspects of some of my favorite students’ careers, and pure fiction. The focus on Freddie Mae’s death, that is the death of an older, black, sometime prostitute, came to me during the troubles of 2016. The Black Lives Matter movement vs. Blue Lives Matter set group against group and politicized death. Curiously, none other than Joseph Stalin said that “a million deaths is a statistic, but one death is a tragedy.” I wanted to show how one life, no matter the person’s color, could affect many people and also reveal social assumptions and maybe biases. Who better to solve the crime than a black and white duo who defied stereotypes? JayJay is a unique woman, but her sassy personality is familiar to me. I have lived with her for over fifty years. Yeah, I am an old dude. 
You teach in a grad school and run a busy non-profit? How do you have time to write a book? 

I write between 5:00 and 8:00 AM when the writing monster takes hold of me. Fortunately, the monster stays in the closet for years.
Really? It seems like you are setting up a series of mystery books based on Covey and JayJay?

Yes, that is correct. the monster is still roaming loose.
You have not lived in Texas for almost 15 years and not in Odessa for 55 years? Why write about Odessa, Texas?

Have you ever been to Odessa? It is unique, and it has real-life characters almost too big to be believable in mere fiction. In addition, when I wrote Washed in the Blood, and a guy from Simon and Schuster told me that it was well written but of no interest to anyone outside Texas. That frosted my mug! Every book has to have a sense of place and neither Brooklyn, nor Moscow, nor London, nor any other place has a monopoly on good stories. Of course, Friday Night Lights proved that, too. I re-visited Odessa countless times in researching and promoting Washed in the Blood; I still have family and friends there; and you can take the boy out of Texas, but…
You teach political science but your books aren’t overly political. Why not?

I think the politics are there, but not in-your-face. Buckminister Fuller, creator of the Geodesic Dome, once told me that politics is like physics. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. It is better, he said, to make forces tangential rather than collide head on. I have never forgotten that.
Is that why there is so much humor in this book?

Perhaps, but then Covey and JayJay are inherently funny people. Covey had to learn how to navigate through bullies in middle school and high school and JayJay just tells it like it is; sometimes that comes out funny.
Are you trying to be trendy with so many gay and lesbian characters in your book?

Hardly, more like pay a penance. Growing up in the 50s, we were totally aware of LGBTQ folks. I was not particularly mean to them, but not until one of the most talented guys from my high school come out in the 70s (and later died of AIDS) did I stop to reflect on the systematic discrimination they faced. One of the characters in my book is still in the closet, and I hope I have conveyed how hard a life that is. It was a situation in which some folks chose death or imprisonment rather than public shame. 
So, you are crusader?

Nope, I simply like to tell stories. And I think I have a few more to tell.


Author Pic Shelley Williams

Shelton L. Williams (Shelly) is founder and president of the Osgood Center for International Studies in Washington, DC. He holds a PhD from Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and he taught for nearly 40 years at Austin College in Sherman, Texas.

He has served in the US Government on 4 occasions and he has written books and articles on nuclear proliferation. In 2004 he began a new career of writing books on crime and society. Those books are Washed in the Blood, Summer of 66, and now Covey Jencks. All firmly prove that he is still a Texan at heart.


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