What Seems True

After the first black supervisor in a Texas oil refinery is murdered, there’s a damning confession—but the witness will never testify. A tale of murder, sex, racial conflict, and labor strife on the Texas Gulf Coast in 1980.

What Seems True was inspired by a true crime that took place in Port Arthur, Texas, in 1979, a crime for which the shooter has never been convicted or even tried. I was there when a real-life Texas Ranger came to a Texaco oil refinery’s asphalt plant to investigate the murder of the plant’s first African-American supervisor. While this outcome seems an injustice that cannot be corrected, what continues to intrigue the author is the psychological aspects of the case: the motives of the people involved and the nature of their relationships. What Seems True uses a similar fictional murder and situation to examine those relationships and motives—which may not be as clear cut as they seem at first blush. The novel is also a story about the fraught relationships of workers—white and black, male and female—in a gritty industrial setting on the Texas Gulf Coast in 1980, a time and place where the 1964 Civils Rights Act still provided minorities and women only a glimmer of hope for workplace equality.