Story telling comes naturally to Ron, stemming from early childhood treks with his grandfather who was a master tale spinner. Growing up in the rough brasada of South Texas, he soaked up the Mexican legends and lore told by vaqueros around campfires. While at the University of Texas, he came under the influence of J. Frank Dobie and Walter Prescott Webb. From that point on history and folklore became the focus of his studies and over the years he has amassed a large library that continues to grow.
Trained as a pharmacist, Ron longed to pen his own works, so he began a self-study in writing. . He first published free lance articles in small newspapers and finally graduated to national magazines. His first try at screen writing resulted in a top writing award at the Golden Triangle Writers of Beaumont, Texas. The following year his second screenplay took the top award at the University of Texas -Arlington/Greater Dallas Writers competition. In 2003 he won a top award at the Kern Film Festival in California.
Genesis of the Books
The Texas Pistoleers: Ben Thompson & King Fisher came about as a result of a newspaper article that Williamson read as a teenager. The cast iron casket of the notorious gunfighter, King Fisher, had to be moved to a new location in Uvalde, Texas. When the workers scraped away the dirt covering the glass porthole over the head, they were surprised to see Fisher's distinct features intact— including his black dropping mustache. Of course there was a large bullet hole instead of a left eye. Intrigued, Williamson read everything he could find on the outlaw/lawman and talked to old-timers in his community that had stories about Fisher. Then, over time, he extended his research to Ben Thompson, the frontier gambler, who was killed along with Fisher in a saloon ambush in 1884.
Frontier Gambling: The Games, The Gamblers, & The Great Gambling Halls of the Old West, was a direct result of the extensive research Williamson had done on Ben Thompson as a frontier gambler in the wild Kansas cattle towns and the mining boomtowns where money flowed freely. It quickly became apparent that there had not been an extensive book written on the history of gambling in the Old West. The archaic card games of faro and monte were the most popular gambling games of the frontier settlements but today very few people know about the games and how they were played. In addition, Williamson came across a large assortment of notorious gamblers of the era that deserved to have their lives profiled. His favorite was a master faro dealer named J.J. Cozad.
Willis Newton: The Last Texas Outlaw came about as a fluke. Williamson was researching technical details needed for a Western novel he was writing. In 1979, Willis Newton, agreed to an interview to supply information of bank and train robberies. Instead, Williamson walked away with cassette tapes detailing Newton's criminal life. A few months later Newton died at age 90. Over the course of time, the tapes were transcribed and put away for use at some point in the future. Then in 2010, Williamson found his transcriptions and started a lengthy historical research to tell Newton's story—the whole story and not just what Willis had told him, which as it turned out was about 40% well-crafted fabrications. Remember the paperback Western that Williamson was working on at the time? It was a total disaster, though it still might make a decent screenplay.
Interview with Willis Newton
"In 1979, I interviewed Willis Newton at his home in Uvalde, Texas. A few months later the outlaw died at age 90.
"I quickly unloaded my tape recorder and after a brief conversation with Willis, handed him the microphone. I asked him how to stage a bank hold up and what was involved in robbing a train. Then like turning on a wind-up toy, Willis essentially started telling me his life’s story.
"With a tape recorder running, Newton rattled off the well-practiced account of his life in machine gun fashion—rationalizing everything he had done, blaming others for his imprisonments, and repeatedly claiming that he had only stolen from “other thieves.”
"I had no idea what to expect when I stepped into his little house that day but what I encountered was the quintessence of the criminal mind. Everything he had done was justified by outside forces, “Nobody ever give me nothing. All I ever got was hell!”
"As I listened in rapt attention, he sat center stage speaking in a high-pitched raspy voice, pontificating on an assortment of subjects of his choosing. Lacing his speech with large quantities of profanities, vulgarities and racial slurs, Willis was quite articulate in telling his stories – a master of fractured grammar.
"In the process, he told me how he was raised as a child and how he was first arrested for a crime “that they knowed I didn’t do.” He went into detail about his first bank holdup, how he “greased” a safe with nitroglycerine, robbed trains, and evaded the lawmen that came after him. Willis described the Texas bank robberies in Boerne, San Marcos, New Braunfels, and Hondo (two in one night). He also related the double bank robbery in Spencer, Indiana and proceeded to give accounts of bank robberies in a multitude of other states.
"Eventually he recounted the events of the Toronto Bank Clearing House robbery in 1923 and finally the great train robbery outside of Rondout, Illinois, where he and his brothers got away with $3,000,000 in cash, jewelry, and bonds.
"Then, as I was writing the book, I interviewed R.C. Talley. At 92, he still had a clear recollection of his involvement with Willis Newton and he provided a detailed account of the events of the bungled bank robbery in Rowena, Texas in 1968. Though Willis was in his mid-70s at the time, Mr. Talley described him as the mastermind of the heist. Then, when things went sour, he told how Willis left him and Doc Newton alone to face a violent shoot-out with the Ballinger police.
"Therefore, the book is not a glorification of his criminal career but rather, the true story of the last Texas outlaw—Willis Newton."
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