Friday, October 26, 2012


I don't know Mr. Lomax, but over the years I've enjoyed his writing greatly. There have been a lot of great writers in the Houston Press since they began in the early 1990's. Wendy Grossman. Tim Fleck. Richard Connelly. Many others whose names I am forgetting. I've known a couple of the writers personally and they were interesting stories unto themselves. I remember Fleck used to hold forth at weekly drinking nights for media and PR and political types at some Mexican restaurant on Montrose, and I met Wendy on a few occasions and she was pleasant if not entertaining and highly intelligent.

So throwing out there that someone is a great writer is not something I normally do.

If you live in Texas, or Houston, or you like crime stories or history, you'll like this article called HOUSTON BABYLON by John Nova Lomax. Here's an after-story cover story blog post by the author and here are some links to some sad tales that didn't make the article. Here's one about AN AVENGING ANGEL and a suicide tale and perhaps the most interesting tale of all, since I saw this fellow in his heyday as a local Houston emcee and dinner theater owner, Dean Goss. I didn't ever know him, but he was locally famous for years.

The Press has done good investigative journalism for many years, in a town where most investigative "journalism" was relegated to TV media types with names like "The Defender" and so on. Often times, the personal lives of these newsmen were more interesting and newsworthy than the stories and people they were chasing.

Every now and then over the past 40 years or so, Texas Monthly magazine might do a good investigative piece on some court case or social issue or controversy. And although highly biased on the left side of the margin, as we say in criminal court, the truth is usually between the middle in a two sides swearing match case. That is to say, reading some account or investigation that might have a heavy liberal or conservative bias and you know the real story is somewhere to the right with the former and to the left with the latter.

I mostly found the investigative reporting by the Press to be more or less in the middle, with pretty good disclosure of relevant facts necessary to assign the amount of credibility to the parties involved and their versions.

As always, I digress. But back to Mr. Lomax.

I believe he began as a music editor for the Houston Press some years ago, perhaps 10 or 15. Given his family history in preserving some of the most important music made in the 1900's, I'm not surprised his music articles have always been entertaining.

I'm too lazy to research how long he's been there and the actual number really isn't all that important, other than to say he's a long time scribe. Some years ago, I began to notice him writing features that were extremely interesting and very well written.

This week, I read online the above-linked back stories that didn't make the print edition, and while in Houston picked up the print edition. Being familiar as a native Houstonian with some of the stories from past news accounts and from folks who know some folks who knew some folks who knew the subject of the story.

I don't care where you live. The stories Mr. Lomax presents are an interesting representation of the wild and woolly town Houston has always been and still is. It is still the {modern} Wild West, for sure, and as his older stories in this feature show, it was wild when it was only two years old.

A great anything is hard to find these days, whether you're talking about doctors or lawyers or teachers or bartenders or musicians or writers. Good ones abound, but the great ones are as scarce as hen's teeth. The above articles, besides being great records of Houston history, are just well written and very interesting to read. Very well presented.

I hope Lomax keeps at this particular subject, and there's certainly enough fodder to make it a regular feature. There's a lot of great and legendary Houston stories out there, many on the verge of disappearing through the deaths of those who were there for the happenings.  Many have already disappeared.

I've got a few stories I need to suggest to him. Some cases my dad handled. Cases I've handled. Cases that friends handled. Cases that I was regaled with stories of by old timers back in the 60's and 70's and 80's at 301 San Jacinto Street, the old Harris County Criminal Courthouse and former Jail. Cases that friends of my father like Clyde Wilson handled.

The gambling joints that used to be in Kemah in the 50's, and on South Main near The Stables restaurant in one of the older mansions. Sam Hoover. The TSU riots. Moody Park. Joe Campos Torres. The list is virtually endless.

As an aside, I used to have a .45 record that I picked up  somewhere in the 5th Ward/Denver Harbor area of Houston at a pretty tough bar I was playing at in the 80's called "The Ballad of Joe Campos Torres" talking about the death of Torres. It was not the most well engineered record but had a lot of soul. Wish I still had it.

Houston builds over it's history, for the most part. Some of my favorite former places and haunts are but now mere parking lots, upscale buildings or McMansions. It reminds me more and more of L.A., but with lots more free parking. Houston's older than L.A., and despite not having Hollywood in Houston, Houston nevertheless manages to have some quite interesting characters and stories that spring forth from the town of sweat and swelter.

I'm glad Mr. Lomax is uncovering some of the tar and pavement from the history of Houston. Keep at it.

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