I was born in the east Texas oil boom town of Kilgore. It just happened to be where we lived when it was time for me to make my appearance in this world. My dad worked in the ‘oil patch’ for Shell oil and I guess we lived in most every boom town of the day…mostly in Texas. However, I did attend twenty-one grade and middle schools in seven states growing up. That’s an education in and to itself.
By the time I hit high school, we had moved to Gainesville, Texas…for the third time. Guess you could say that was my ‘home town’. Dad didn’t want to move us since I was playing football and would lose a year of eligibility, so he took a reduction in job classification from Driller to Pumper—at a substantial cut in pay although I didn’t know that at the time.
As soon as I graduated, dad went back to Drilling and pushing tools (a Field Supervisor) and he and mom moved to the oil play at Liberal, Kansas. I went off to school at Oklahoma University to play football under Coach Bud Wilkinson. My best friend from high school called me the following summer while I was working seismograph for Shell Oil out of McAlister, Oklahoma and said, “Hey, Kenny, I just joined the Marine Corps…Come go with me.” Well, what the hell.
When I got out of the Corps, my high school football coach, the venerable Buddy Ryan (later of NFL fame) called me to come to Lake of the Pines near Marshall, Texas and be Water Front Director for an exclusive boys camp named for the wonderful Hollywood actor…Camp Dale Robertson. Buddy was Camp Director.
Toward the end of the summer, I started thinking maybe I’d better be for getting back to college somewhere. Coach Ryan was friends with Bill “Red” Conkright, head coach at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas, and he got me a tryout for the football team. Coach Conkright offered me a full scholarship for my final three years of eligibility. Who knew?
No, I didn’t major in writing. I got my Bachelor’s degree in Speech and Drama and also one in Business in 1964. Guess I’ve always been somewhat of a ham.
After working for IBM and in the insurance business for a while, a cousin of mine, who was a petroleum engineer, called and said, “Hey, Kenny, let’s start a drilling company and punch holes in Texas.” Well, what the hell. We formed Texas Western, Inc. and started drilling oil and gas wells over a goodly portion of west Texas—I became a genuine Texas wildcatter.
I had always been a cowboy at heart and decided that instead of living in Dallas, I’d make my home base at a ranch. I sold my interest in Texas Western, bought some land outside of Athens, in east Texas, and started raising registered Beefmaster cattle and Quarter Horses. Who knew.
I was dating a model with the Kim Dawson agency in Dallas in the early ‘70s and would go into the agency on occasion with her. The agent, Kim, kept trying to get me to sign up with her, saying I had a great look, LOL, but I looked around at the guy models that she had and said, “I don’t think so…Don’t believe I fit into your program.”
Well, sometime later, I was in there with my girl friend and Kim came up to me and asked, “You ride horses, don’t you?” I laughed and replied, “Been thrown off of one or two, yes, ma’am.” She said, “I don’t have anyone in the agency that can ride.”—You see, there’s a big difference between someone who can ride and a ‘rider’…I’m a rider.—I looked around at the pictures of her guys she had on the wall and said, “I can believe that.”
She asked, “Would you go and represent my agency on a Dairy Queen audition?” Now, I hadn’t told her I had a degree in Drama and didn’t then. I finally said, “I don’t have any pictures.” She said, “Doesn’t matter, they’ll take a Polaroid.” (Tells you how long ago that was.) So, I go in my usual outfit, jeans, boots, denim shirt and cowboy hat and the director is casting—it was even before the days of the casting director. He looked up when I came in and says, “Oooh, love your costume.” I got in his face and said, “Costume, my ass.” Now, I don’t know if he fell in love or got intimidated, but I got the part and introduced the Dairy Queen Belt Buster hamburger.
Later, after we had shot the commercial, I got to thinking, “They’re gonna pay me that kind of money to sit on a horse and eat a hamburger…Well, what the hell.” That was forty-five years, some fifteen or so feature films—including Silverado, Uncommon Valor, Newton Boys, Rocketman, Last of the Warriors, and Friday Night Lights—fifty plus TV episodes (including six Dallas and six Walker, Texas Ranger) or MOWs and I quit counting TV commercials at 260, including eight years as spokesman for Wolf Brand Chili…and only God knows how many Industrials and VO (voice over) jobs I’ve done.
Well, somewhere back around ‘84, like most actors, I started writing screenplays. There was always that thought in the back of your mind, “Hell, I can write better than some of the crap I’ve had to read for.” That was probably thirty or forty screen or teleplays ago. Good practice…especially in writing dialogue.
Around ’90, I decided I’d had enough of Hollywood and moved back to Gainesville, Texas—for the fourth time. Bought a small ranch and figured if I had a movie or TV show to do, I was only about an hour from DFW airport.
In, 2009, a local friend, Buck Stienke, asked to read some of my screenplays. So, I gave him some and he took a shine to Rockabilly Baby...a fictional account of the birth of rock and roll in the ‘50s…With Buck producing and me directing, we shot it in Gainesville, with some students from my acting class I had been teaching. It won a few awards.
In 2011, an old buddy from the Marine Corp, John Eastman, called and said, “Kenny, I wrote a novel.” “Hell, good for you John.” He asked, “Can you make a screenplay out of it?” I said, “Sure, send it down.” He sent a seven hundred page novel to me. “Damn, John, why didn’t you just send War and Peace…” Well, anyway, Buck and I adapted it to a 123 page screenplay in about three months, that is still making the rounds at Disney.
Buck and I looked at each other after that and simultaneously said, “Shoot, we can write a novel.” Thirteen weeks later we finished our first, Black Eagle Force: Eye of the Storm. It was released in Feb. of 2012—that was fifteen novels ago. Seven military/action novels in the Black Eagle Force series; Two in the Aurora SyFy series and six in The Nation historical western fiction series, featuring the first black Deputy US Marshal, west of the Mississippi, Bass Reeves (Winners of two national Laramie awards). Two of the westerns, I wrote alone…HELL HOLE and the just released LADY LAW and my WIP in the same series is, BLUE WATER WOMAN.
Just after we had released the second western, Haunted Falls (winner of the Laramie Best Action Western, 2013) a fan asked why I hadn’t written about Delaware Bend up on the Red River between the Indian Nations and Texas. I said, “Didn’t know anything about it.” Well the reason was that it was mostly under Lake Texoma today. But, back in the 1800s, Delaware Bend (and Dexter, Texas), in Cooke County, was one of the three most notorious places in North America, along with Leadville, Colorado and Tombstone, Arizona—in addition to being the the winter camp for the likes of the notorious guerrillas, William Clarke Quantrill, Bloody Bill Anderson and later, the James Gang.
Wow, what a treasure-trove of history to weave a story around—and ACROSS the RED was born. Following that was BASS and the LADY, where I introduced Deputy US Marshal Fiona Mae Miller, the only female deputy marshal to serve in the Indian Nations under Judge Isaac Parker—the Hanging Judge. Gainesville became the home base for Deputy US Marshals Fiona Miller and Brushy Bill Roberts—Brushy Bill is said by many to actually be Billy the Kid after he faked his death by his close friend, Pat Garrett in 1881. Brushy Bill died in 1950 in Hico, Texas.
Texas has offered me an unlimited source of material for my historical fiction westerns. My current WIP, I mentioned earlier, is BLUE WATER WOMAN an Indian Shamaness for the Caddos of the mound building Atakapan Tejas Indian tribes back in the 1500s. Fiona Mae and her partner, Deputy US Marshal Brushy Bill Roberts go on a suspense filled encounter peppered with old west Indian mysticism, therianthropy, also know as shapeshifting and outlaws on the scout in BLUE WATER WOMAN.
In a country and lifestyle normally reserved for men, Fiona Mae Miller is a special breed of woman. She’s lightening fast, an expert shot…with either hand…can ride anything with hair on it and doesn’t tolerate injustice or rudeness anywhere...or from anyone.
Ken Farmer didn’t write his first full novel until he was sixty-nine years of age. He often wonders what the hell took him so long. At age seventy-five…he’s currently working on novel number sixteen—In addition to E and Print, eight of the novels, so far, are available in Audio…narrated by Ken.
Ken spent thirty years raising cattle and quarter horses in Texas and forty-five years as a professional actor (after a stint in the Marine Corps). Those years gave him a background for storytelling…or as he has been known to say, “I’ve always been a bit of a bull---t artist, so writing novels kind of came naturally once it occurred to me I could put my stories down on paper.”
In addition to his love for writing fiction, he likes to teach acting, voice-over and writing workshops. His favorite expression is: “Just tell the damn story.”
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