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November 2001

Release Date: November 1, 2001

Commerce Couple Donates Kelton Books, Materials to West Texas Collection

Art Hendrix started collecting books by Elmer Kelton in 1976 and a quarter of a century later he and his wife, Margie, have donated one of the most complete collections of Kelton's works to the Dr. Ralph R. Chase West Texas Collection at Angelo State University.

Residents of Commerce, the Hendrixes first met San Angelo author Kelton during a Texas Folklore Society meeting.

"We were impressed with his sincerity and his knowledge of the West, the historical correctness of his detail," Mrs. Hendrix said.

Hendrix added, "We wanted to read something he had written. After the first book, we were hooked and there's been no stopping point."

Altogether they donated 250 books and more than 75 pulp magazines and other ephemera related to Kelton's writing career. The collection includes hardcover first editions of all but three of Kelton's novels as well as numerous paperback and foreign editions.

The Hendrixes said they decided to give the books to the West Texas Collection because the archive would keep the books together as a single collection rather than dispersing them through the stacks as many libraries or archives do. Further, the West Texas Collection seemed appropriate since it was located in San Angelo where Kelton began his career as a novelist.

Hendrix said copies of "Ranch Romances" where Kelton's short stories first began to appear were the most expensive of the materials he donated. One particular issue cost him $125.

Kelton, who met with the Hendrixes when they officially turned over the materials to the West Texas Collection, said, "It is a little overwhelming to know that anybody would pay that kind of money. It's gratifying yet mysterious, especially when you consider that when those pulp magazines first came out they cost from 15 to 25 cents."

Kelton noted that there were even a couple editions in the Hendrix collection that he did not have in his personal collection.

Over the years, Hendrix became so knowledgeable of Kelton's work that in 1985 he published a book, Elmer Kelton: Thirty Years of Western Fiction, on the San Angelo author who has been voted by Western Writers of America as the top western author of all time.

"Over time," Hendrix said, "a historical look at literature will show that the western was important to American 20th century writing. Elmer is the best of the western writers. Time will also show that Elmer is not only important as a western writer but also is one of the best writers of 20th century literature."

For the Hendrixes, Kelton's writing provided first-rate entertainment, a combination of well-crafted stories with well-researched history. Hendrix said his favorite Kelton novel remains The Good Old Boys.

In addition to the entertainment from Kelton's writing, beginning the collection of his works had another benefit.

"It provided a hobby not only for me but also for the whole family," Hendrix said. "All our kids keep a list of what we need for the Kelton collection and it has been a fun thing for them to do when they travel."

Even though it may have taken a lot of time and money to find the various Kelton materials the Hendrixes collected over the last quarter century, it will be easy for researchers in the future to find them. All they will need to do is go to the West Texas Collection, thanks to the Hendrix donation.

As for the Hendrixes, they're always looking for one particular Kelton book, the next one.