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The Right Side of Wrong by Reavis Z Wortham

Reavis Z. Wortham knows intimately the area that he writes about– Texas’ Red River Valley.  He grew up hunting and fishing in the area and has taught and written in and about Texas throughout his life.  His imaginary Red River Valley town of Center Springs and the people who inhabit this town as are prototypical of that part of Texas in the mid-1960s as the characters of Garrison Keillor’s Lake Wobegon are of northern Minnesota.  Like Keillor, Wortham brings a folksy humor to his “Red River Mystery” series, but overall the subject matter is very serious.  “The Right Side of Wrong” weaves many historical and economic markers into this tale about the beginnings of  marijuana smuggling into Texas from Mexico and drug trafficking in the 1960s.  It is a fascinating read.

There are characters to warm your heart in “The Right Side of Wrong.” The story is about an extended family which includes  the two constables of Center Springs, Ned Parker and his nephew Cody, their wives, and grandchildren who are cousins, Top and Pepper.  Part of the story is told in the first person by Top to add a more humorous and innocent touch to the story.  The kids help a mysterious neighbor, Tom Bell, fix up the old ranch house near Ned and Becky Parker’s ranch and discover a secret about this man’s past.  They also stow away in Bell’s car on an adventure to the border to help Ned Parker free Cody from a Mexican border town jail run by associates of a drug cartel.  A black constable by the name of John Washington also has the Parkers’ backs on a number of occasions and we experience through this character many instances of discrimination accurately and painfully depicted as it routinely occurred in Texas and throughout the South especially in the 1960s and earlier.  Because Becky Parker is Choctaw and Cody is half-Choctaw there is also some native culture and lore woven into the story.

The story will especially bring those of us who are baby boomers back to what was going on in the mid-1960s.  Using the two pre-teen kids to tell part of the story is a stroke of genius because it will trigger vivid memories for many baby boomer readers who were the age of Top and Pepper during the 1960s.   In addition to being nostalgic this historical mystery is also action-packed and full of twists and turns.  It was hard to put down.

The Right Side of Wrong” is the third in Wortham’s mystery series.  It would definitely be worth checking out the earlier titles in “A Red River Mystery” series.

Reviewed from a supplied copy.

Liz Nichols

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