A Surprising Influence

As a writer, you often get asked whom your influences are. For me, that’s a long list, but one of them may surprise you. Although I am focused mostly on writing fiction, he is a historian. He’s not world famous or even best selling but in Western Writers of America and in the Southwest he is well known as a great storyteller, especially here in El Paso.

Leon Metz grew up in West Virginia but came to El Paso to serve at Fort Bliss and never left. He’s written some important books about local and regional history, worked as a historian at University of Texas, El Paso, is in demand as a speaker, and even has his own radio show. He’s also a heck of a nice guy and very humble, and reading his books brought history alive for me in a whole new way.

I met him when he came to be a talking head on the A&E; show “The Real West,” which I was working on. I was assigned to drive him around and we struck up a friendship and corresponded back and forth a bit. Then we lost touch, as happens between friends. Two years back, when I moved to El Paso, I determined to look him up and renew our friendship and he’s been a great encouragement to me.

Leon’s history books read like novels. They are full of rich characterization, scenery and rich historical details that bring the events, people and places of the psat alive. I had always found history fascinating, but reading Leon’s books helped get me excited all over again. In fact, when we moved down here, it was memories of the history he taught me through his books that set me off exploring and immediately appreciating the rich history of this new place we call home. I visited the old Concordia Cemetery where the famous gunfighter John Wesley Hardin is buried along with the man who assassinated him. I visited the downtown locations where Hardin had his office, the bar where he was shot and so many more.

Leon’s book “The Border” taught me so much about the history of the US-Mexico border region we now call home. It’s a fascinating study of politics, culture crossing, and history colliding. And it has had a profound impact along the miles from the Gulf Of Mexico to San Diego where in the border lies.

I had the privilege of copy editing and proofing his latest effort on the early days of the Mexican War. It was so rich and exciting to be among the first readers of his work. Of all the people I hope will be proud of my work, Leon tops the list. Such a privilege to read his work, to know him, and to call him friend.

Our influences can sometimes come from unusual places. For what it’s worth…