Well, it’s my fault that I didn’t know about the death of T.R. Fehrenbach until last night, when one of the ladies in my Red Hat circle mentioned it. She ventured something about a historian and editorial writer for the local newspaper, whose name was something like “fehren” who had died several days before, and the obituary was in yesterday’s paper. Was he someone that I knew, since I write historical fiction? I asked her if the name was Fehrenbach and she said yes – and would I please pronounce it again.

My fault – I cancelled my subscription years ago, upon realizing that just about everything but strictly local news I had already read on-line and days before it appeared in the rapidly-diminishing pages of the San Antonio Express News. So – I did a quick googlectomy and yes, it was true. T.R. Fehrenbach had a long life and a well-spent one, to outward appearance, and a goodly number of books on ranging wide over matters historical, and readable enough to be outstandingly popular with that portion of the reading public with a passing interest in history and no urge to go wading through the murky swamps of strictly specialist academic historians. No, like Bruce Catton, or Barbara Tuchman – he was erudite and a pleasure to read. Such writers come along rarely enough. I think the greatest service they do, besides enlarging general historical knowledge, is that they get other people interested in history; passionately and deeply interested in it.

When I first began mapping out the general outline of my first books set in Texas, I bought a copy of Lone Star – from Half Price Books, of course. Later on someone recommended his Comanches – The History of a People. By then I had also branched out to other local historians for book-fodder; Scott Zesch, Alvin Josephy, Brownson Malsch, S.C. Gwynne, William C. Davis, J. Frank Dobie, Stephen Hardin and primary sources without number. I do regret that I was never able to meet Mr. Fehrenbach personally, although I have several friends who did, over the years. San Antonio is a small town in a lot of ways, and writers – even just people – pursuing the same interests tend to fetch up in the same circles or at the same events.
I would have liked to thank him. Ah, well – I also missed out on meeting Elmer Kelton, a few years ago. Mr. Kelton was supposed to the the big-name guest author at the West Texas Book and Music Festival in Abilene, a few years ago. And when I was sixteen, I nearly had a chance to meet the founder of Girl Scouting, Olave Badon-Powell, but that fell through as well.