The year is 1934, and the country is in the stranglehold of drought and economic depression. Ella Barron runs her Texas boardinghouse with an efficiency that ensures her life will be kept in balance. When David Rainwater arrives at the house looking for lodging, he comes recommended by a trusted friend as “a man of impeccable character,” but Ella senses that admitting Mr. Rainwater will bring about unsettling changes.
However, times are hard, and in order to make ends meet, Ella’s house must remain one hundred percent occupied. So Mr. Rainwater moves into her house and impacts her life in ways Ella could never have foreseen. The changes are echoed by the turbulence beyond the walls of the boardinghouse. Friends and neighbors who’ve thus far maintained a tenuous grip on their meager livelihoods now face foreclosure and financial ruin. In an effort to save their families from homelessness and hunger, farmers and cattlemen are forced to make choices that come with heartrending consequences.
The climate of desperation creates a fertile atmosphere for racial tensions and social unrest. Conrad Ellis, privileged and spoiled and Ella’s nemesis since childhood, steps into this arena of teeming hostility to exact his vengeance and demonstrate the extent of his blind hatred and unlimited cruelty. In this hotbed of uncertainty, Ella finds Mr. Rainwater a calming presence. She is moved by the kindness he shows other boarders. Slowly, she begins to rely on his soft-spokenness, his restraint, and the steely resolve of his convictions. And on the hottest, most violent night of the summer, those principles will be put to the ultimate test.
Writing RAINWATER was a labor of love. I squeezed it in between my contract books and told no one until it was finished and I sent it to my agent. While I love every book I’ve written, RAINWATER touched me as no other story of my career has. RAINWATER is based on a true story told to me by my late father who grew up during the Great Depression. One of his most vivid childhood memories was of a showdown between his father and armed federal agents who arrived at Grandpa’s dairy farm demanding he pour out surplus milk rather than give it away to people in need. In the ravaged cotton and cattle country of central Texas, there were many in need.
In my grandfather’s opinion, the government program, designed to create a greater demand for milk and as a result, drive up the price, was flawed if not downright lunatic, especially when the babies of so many friends, neighbors, and, indeed, perfect strangers, were going hungry. He refused to comply with the mandate and, backed by a few gun-toting relatives, ordered the agents off his property. The agents retreated without a shot being fired, and Grandpa continued giving away the surplus milk that he couldn’t sell.
Throughout the year, whenever I had a spare week or two, I revisited RAINWATER because once I began committing it to paper, I was captivated by Mr. Rainwater himself, by Ella and Solly, by all the people who inhabited their tiny sphere. I became completely immersed in their strife and joys. From the day I conceived it, I felt this story was special, that although it takes place almost eighty years ago, its conflicts are timely today. Its themes are timeless. My hope is that you, my loyal fans, and ultimately readers who aren’t acquainted with my suspense novels will find this one as engaging, compelling, poignant, and meaningful as I have, and that it will touch you in a special way.