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Wednesday, July 15, 2015

A Review and Some Pondering

A while back I reviewed Ghost Fleet, a novel that imagined what a third World War might look like. I found it frightening, to say the least.  And unnervingly plausible.

Evidently, I'm not the only one who felt that way:

Navy Times:  Ghost Fleet Offers a Realistic Look at an Imagined War

Discover Magazine:  Ghost Fleet's Fiction Aims to Shape Minds on Future War


After reading Julia Heaberlin's Black Eyed Susans, I was determined to read more by Heaberlin.  When BookBub offered Heaberlin's Playing Dead for $1.99,  I snapped it up.

Tommie McCloud,  former rodeo star, psychologist, and equine therapist, returns to her Texas home after the death of her father.  As she deals with the grief of her father's death and her mother's descent into Alzheimer's, she gets another shock to her system:  a letter from a woman in Chicago who claims that Tommie is her daughter and was kidnapped when she was a year old.

OK -- the plot is a bit fantastic, yet it didn't bother me much while I was reading.  I liked the characters and the Texas atmosphere, but found the thread involving the Chicago mob(s) far-fetched and illogical.  There were plenty of twists and turns, but not all details and digressions were resolved.

There are plenty of mysteries, some surprises, almost everyone carries at least one gun, the novel has a modern wild west flavor, seasoned with Chicago organized crime.

Playing Dead is Heaberlin's first novel.  I liked it even though I thought it had flaws.  


Mystery/Crime.  2012.  Print version:  354 pages.

Thinking about all those guns made me wonder a bit about gun culture.

"Don't mess with Texas" was a great campaign slogan to prevent litter, but it has a wider application as well.  A frontier mindset still exists in both fiction and fact about Texas.  There is a Texas mythology that prevails even in minds of Texans who have never owned a gun, ridden a horse, or worked a ranch--but the reality is that most Texans don't "carry" or actually lead lives that in any way involve the Western myth.  (Owning a gun and carrying a gun are quite different.)  

I was curious about how Texas ranked in gun ownership because I live in a state that also has a love affair with guns.  I found this article:  Gun Owners as a Percentage of Each State's Population.  Surprisingly, Texas ranked as #30 on the list with 35.9% of its population owning one or more guns. Wyoming held the #1 position with 59.7% .  

But here is another way to look at it--the population of Wyoming (2014 census) is 584,173. The population of Texas is 26.96 million. While the percentages are higher in the sparsely populated state of Wyoming, the number of gun owners in Texas by far exceeds the number of gun owners in Wyoming.  

It is funny what detours the mind takes when reading (or when writing about reading). 

  • States with Extremely High Populations of Gun Owners(more than 50%)
  • 1. Wyoming - 59.7%
  • 2. Alaska - 57.8%
  • 3. Montana - 57.7%
  • 4. South Dakota - 56.6%
  • 5. West Virginia - 55.4%
  • 6. Mississippi - 55.3%
  • 6. Idaho - 55.3%
  • 6. Arkansas - 55.3%
  • 9. Alabama - 51.7%
  • 10. North Dakota - 50.7%
  • (via the above linked article)

The state with the lowest percentage of gun ownership?  Hawaii.  Where does your state rank in gun ownership?


  1. It's interesting that the majority are in the Western states. What type of guns are they counting: hunting rifles? handguns? I think that makes a big difference. also: how do you count illegally owned or stolen guns?

    1. I think the poll just asked about guns in general, not specifics, although for the South and West a lot of guns would be for hunting. No specifics about illegal or stolen guns, and I don't know how those with illegal or stolen guns would respond to a poll, even if they had at least one gun registered. But the reasons listed for owning a gun included hunting, protection, and Second Amendment right--from another poll on Texas gun ownership.

  2. I saw that poll about gun ownership too. And came to the same numbers that you did. Well, I'm a Texan and I grew up in a house with guns. My father was a state policeman for over 30 years. So, that was normal for me. We always had a gun with us or he did. It was required. I think a lot of people here do hunt, at least occasionally. That accounts for some, but I agree that the culture here is different in many ways. And I live in the part of the state that probably differs most from the 'cliched' culture. And that's all I'll say about that. :-)

    I have Playing Dead on my shelf to be read at some point and I do want to read Black Eyed Susans. Have heard good things. Thanks for your ponderings.

    1. Louisiana's per centage of gun owners is even higher than in Texas. I think the book looks at the cliched population of Texas and the Western myth (including a mention of Etta Place and the Wild Bunch), which is why I started researching the numbers. It was how many people in the novel were carrying guns that made me so curious.

      My husband has a gun safe, most of my family hunts, and I'm accustomed to being around people who own guns and who hunt responsibly. I was surprised to learn that Louisiana out-gunned Texas, 44.1% to 35.9%. Our population is much lower, but our percentages are higher. I guess I'd never really thought about in terms of numbers of people, but around 2 million people in Louisiana own guns.

  3. Quit adding books to my already too-long reading list. :) Heaberlin sounds like an author I need to check out. And Ghost Fleet does sound good...if a little disturbing. Thanks!

    1. :) I enjoyed the Playing Dead, but I liked Black Eyed Susans much better.

  4. Mine ranks 21, and while we have a conceal and carry law here, I suspect most of the guns owned in the state are rifles for hunting since hunting is a big deal here.

    1. Hunting is huge here, and as I replied to Kay, most of the men in my family hunt. I'm not afraid of guns in general, but thinking about the numbers really floors me. I'd like to know the numbers of conceal and carry permits in different states.

  5. Interesting facts about the gun ownerships.
    I'm definitely intrigued by Black Eyed Susans after reading your review. It'd be onto my wishlist. :)

    1. I found the information about gun ownership interesting and surprising. If you read Black Eyed Susans, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. :)

  6. Interesting how the mind goes off on a tangent when reading. Like when a character in a book (not in a food cozy) serves a special meal and then I go and google that recipe. I liked reading your research. Yes, it depends on the population count of the state and not just the %. If you listenend to the Los Angeles tv news, we are a couple of hours away but that is our tv market, you would think that California was #1 in guns. Lots and lots of violence going on daily there. More so than we ever heard about when being in the NYC tv news market.
    Thanks again for the review and further research. I read and loved Black-Eyed Susans, but don't feel compelled to read this by the author.

    1. :) I love being able to get information immediately about anything that pops up. I googled "hummingbird cake" from a reference in a novel not too long ago.

      Now that you mention it, gun ownership and gun violence are also different. Wyoming has the highest percentage of gun ownership, but I bet the gun violence in the entire state doesn't equal that of any one of our larger cities.

  7. I really liked Playing Dead when I read it. I agree that it was a bit out there, but, like for you, it didn't bother me much when I was reading it.

    I love it when reading spurs the researcher in me to look something up. From the list you shared, my state is number 42. I would have thought it'd be higher, actually. But then again, hunting isn't as big in California as it is in some of the states with higher precentages.

    1. Playing Dead was fast-paced and kept me engrossed. It is interesting to see the statistics and discover where your state lands on gun ownership. I was surprised at how Louisiana ranked, but everyone hunts here.