Gary Cartwright was born August 10, 1934 in Dallas, Texas, and raised in nearby Arlington. He received a B.A. in journalism and government from Texas Christian University in 1957. Cartwright reported the police beat for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram from 1956 until he was hired away in 1958 to the Fort Worth Press, where he joined Dan Jenkins and Bud Shrake in the sports department under legendary Texas sportswriter Blackie Sherrod.
In 1960, Cartwright moved to the Dallas Times Herald as a sports reporter and in 1963 he joined the Dallas Morning News to write his own sports column. Cartwright’s first book, a football novel entitled The Hundred Yard War, was published in 1967 at which point he left newspaper work to became a freelance writer. His work has appeared in The Texas Observer, Esquire, Saturday Review, Rolling Stone and Texas Monthly.
Cartwright has been associated with Texas Monthly magazine since its inception in 1973. His articles range over various topics—crime, notable Texans, Texas culture, travel, sports and international travel. A collection of his Texas Monthly articles can be found in Confessions of a Washed-up Sportswriter. The true-crime books Blood Will Tell and Dirty Dealing began as articles for Texas Monthly. In 1988, Cartwright had a heart attack that required quintuple-bypass surgery. A suggestion by Governor Ann Richards to document changes in his life since the injury led to his book, HeartWiseGuy. After more than three decades as a writer and editor at Texas Monthly, Cartwright retired in August 2010.
Among the many honors Cartwright has received for his writing are the Texas Institute of Letters’ Stanley Walker Award for Journalism for “The Endless Odyssey of Patrick Henry Polk” (Texas Monthly, May 1977) and the Press Club of Dallas Katie Award for Best Magazine News Story for “The Work of the Devil” (Texas Monthly, June 1989). Cartwright has written screenplays in collaboration with Edwin (Bud) Shrake, including J. W. Coop (1972) and Another Pair of Aces (CBS-TV, 1990).
I don’t claim much of a literary background. The town where I grew up (Arlington, Texas) had a tiny library above the fire station. The first writer who truly impressed me and caused me to wonder if there was something out there for me was Hemingway. For a long time I tried to emulate his clean, crisp style and feeling for life and death.
I was going pretty well with Hemingway when I got sidetracked by Durrell’s Alexandria Quartet, at which time I lapsed into my Purple Period. Nelson Algren’s Walk on the Wildside-I think I read some Conrad about the same time-got me out of the stench of lyrical, overripe nonsense and back in the dust where I belonged. Somewhere in there I read Robert Stone’s A Hall of Mirrors, and later Dog Soldiers, and began to understand that a writer’s true function was storytelling.
Like a lot of writers my age, my head was turned by reading J.D. Salinger, though I didn’t understand him. I came to prefer William Goldman, who wrote more to my level and with a skill I could appreciate and borrow from. I know it’s popular in literary circles to dismiss Goldman as a hack-gone-Hollywood, but I wish I had his gift as a storyteller.
In recent years I have fallen in love with such mystery writers as Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett and John LeCarre. There is something cynical and laconic in the way these writers weave a story, as though to say life really has no resolution, it’s just one damn thing after another but worthwhile if it’s done right.
Two books that influenced my own works were David Storey’s This Sporting Life, which I read shortly before beginning The Hundred-Year War; and Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, which was the inspiration for my two latest books, Blood Will Tell and Dirty Dealing. I am fascinated by this genre and have come to recognize that life imitating art is every bit as literate as art imitating life.
In a way I can’t quite explain, Dirty Dealing was influenced, too, by John Reed’s Insurgent Mexico. Reed got across a feeling for how the isolation of desert wastelands gives both a meaning and a meaninglessness to life, and how codes within cultures are more permanent than laws within nations.
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