images_sizedimage_064114309

Jayne Boykin/The Duncan Banner Rickey Bray of Marlow wrote his first published novel while he was in prison. Bray will be one of the authors featured at Saturday’s Border Queen Book Festival in Comanche.

Dozens of authors, publishers and illustrators from at least six states will converge from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at the Border Queen Book Festival (BQBF) in the Asbury Complex at 410 S. Second in Comanche, among them, first-time novelist Rickey Bray of Marlow.

Well, actually, “Rendezvous Rock” is not Bray’s first novel, but the first of six novels that he has written that has been published.

Until 1978, Bray said he was “pretty normal,” living in the Elgin-Porter Hill area, working as a house painter and enjoying life with his wife and three children. All that came to a tragic end on April 22, 1978, when a drunken driver crashed into the Brays’ car, killing his wife and two of his children.

“Neither I nor my oldest child were hurt,” Bray said.

“I still don’t know how that could happen, but that’s the way it was.”

Grief over his loss sent Bray into a downward spiral of drug and alcohol abuse that resulted 14 years later in him and his second wife being arrested on felony drug charges. Bray was convicted and sentenced to 32 years in prison. He was only 39 at the time.

Bray was sent to the state penitentiary at McAlester where he entered a “void” as he described it of no family, no job, no joy and limited human contact. After three or four years of hoping that his situation was simply a nightmare from which he would awaken one day, Bray decided to come to terms with his imprisonment and take action to improve himself.

“I always loved to read. I thought someday I might try writing something myself. I read anything available in the prison library, which wasn’t much — (John) Grisham when I could find anything by him, and (Larry) McMurtry, who is from down around Wichita Falls and writes westerns as well as modern-day fiction,” Bray said.

The Elgin High School graduate had completed a year at Cameron University, majoring in chemistry, and was “born with” an enjoyment of writing, so turning to writing novels of his own was not that far a reach.

“It was mostly something to focus on at first. In prison, the idle time eats you up if you let it. My cellmate liked to paint, and when we were not working at our assigned jobs, he was busy with his art and I was writing my novels with a pencil on legal pads,” Bray said. “We stayed to ourselves and didn’t let anyone mess with us, so we didn’t have the difficulties we could have had.

“I finished my first manuscript in 1996. I finished ‘Rendezvous Rock’ in 1998, almost exactly a year from the time I started the first draft.”

No notebooks were allowed in the state prison — only legal pads — and no pens were allowed. Prisoners were allowed to have pencils, but not pencil sharpeners. When Bray wore down his pencil lead, he had to have it sharpened by a guard. There were no computers or Internet, either, so all his notes and novels were handwritten.

As Bray worked his way down through the security levels of the penal system, from McAlester to Connors Correctional Center at Hominy, then to a minimum-security facility at Madill, he was able to acquire pens and notebooks to make his writing easier.

Bray is now on unsupervised parole, with no tracking or reporting to a parole officer necessary, until June 2010. Should he be convicted of a crime before then, he will go back to prison to serve his final year, in addition to any other sentence he might receive for the new conviction.

He’s learned his lesson, however, and — as he did during his prison years — stays out of trouble and away from the drugs that landed him in a cell to begin with, he said.

Although some references have called “Rendezvous Rock” a story based on witchcraft, it is not, Bray said.

“That’s misleading. It is a paranormal romance — mostly romance. ‘Lightly fantastic,’ you might say. There’s no magic, black or otherwise. I write mostly mainline fiction, but there’s always a male-female backdrop, always a romantic thread in there somewhere,” he explained.

Bray’s wife, Rebecca, to whom he was married recently, is typing up the manuscript of his latest novel from his handwritten pages. His sister-in-law, Patti Bray of Marlow, is editing his manuscripts and helping him with the marketing efforts. Bray has returned to his previous occupation of house painter and now works for his brother at Bray’s Painting in Marlow and also does freelance paint contracting.

For information on BQBF, contact Event Coordinator Tonya Holmes Shook by e-mail at shookum@pldi.net or call 580-439-6912.

Food will be available for purchase at noon at the Asbury Complex.

Recommended for you