Country music, horse racing, and the beautiful Texas hill country set the scene of Dekker Malone’s Nashville Gold. A surprised Payne McCarty hears country music’s hottest singer, Rusti King, singing the song he wrote on the radio. Payne and his horse jockey best friend, Skeeter, head to Nashville to the offices of Sure-Star Publishing to find out why they stole Payne’s song. Before he can get an answer from unprincipled publisher Roger Durwood, Durwood has Payne arrested and thrown into county jail, where he spends ten miserable days for assault.
Undeterred, Payne returns home to New Braunfels, Texas, where he writes songs and plays with the local band Nova-Scotia, at Heidi’s Roadhaus owned by Casey, a strong, colorful woman. Since his music isn’t exactly lucrative, Payne supplements his income by working as a carpenter for Jerry. Ragina, Jerry’s daughter, who has known Payne for years, is crazy for Payne.
Other happenings to keep the story moving include a flood pulsing through the Texas town washing Payne’s Nashville troubles out of his mind. But when the band eventually finds itself invited to play at Willie Nelson’s 4th of July picnic and Payne meets the singer behind his song.
Meanwhile, Skeeter has his own problems dealing with Red Phillips, the crooked horseracing bookie who fixes the races and fuels the jockeys with drugs to keep them in racing form. Red is a powerhouse not to be crossed and even has the local law working with him at the races. With a character like Red, there’s bound to be a murder in the story to keep things hopping.
Dekker Malone has given the characters distinctive personalities that provide the book with its charm. Those who aren’t fans of country music and Texas cowboys should not write off the book. As a Texan, but no fan of country music, I appreciate laughing with the characters and was eager to know what happens next. We city types are constantly trying to prove we’re not all “cowboys” and “country,” but at least readers can get an inside look at the picturesque Texas country. Finishing the book leaves the reader wanting more of these likeable folks, and happy to know that Malone has a second novel planned, called Kentucky Roses. The book receives an old-fashioned Texas yee-haw to Dekker Malone for striking gold with his first book.
Though Meryl is a proud native Texan, don’t expect to find her (and many other Texans) wearing 10-gallon hats and cowboy boots.