An excellent debut novel, The Shinnery by Kate Anger (pronounced ahn-JHER), is set in 1894-96 in this part of West Texas.
The fast-paced story revolves around Jessa Campbell, 17, who likes working with her father to eke out a living on their farm in the Shinnery. However, to settle a debt at the nearby town mercantile, her father sends Jessa to help the mercantile owner’s wife take care of their two boys. Jessa hates leaving home and longs to go back to her own family as soon she can.
Meanwhile, she falls in love with a handsome young piano teacher, who claims to love her as well. But, before long, he takes advantage of her innocence in violent ways, and Jessa finally returns to the family farm heartbroken and pregnant.
Her father, J. R. Campbell, grabs his shotgun and goes to town. The piano player ends up dead, and Mr. Campbell is put on trial in Haskell for killing him.
Anger, a California playwright and professor, learned during a visit to Abilene of a similar story involving her own great-great-grandfather, and that inspired her to write the novel.
She will be in Abilene and Stamford for several talks and book signings in October. The downtown Abilene Public Library will host her for a program at noon Friday, Oct. 14. You can get the book ahead of time at Texas Star or purchase it at her talk (University of Nebraska Press, $21.95 paperback).