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Rick Treon is a member of the International Thriller Writers and the Texas High Plains Writers, and a former award-winning newspaper reporter and editor. After graduating from The University of Texas at Austin with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, Rick worked as a reporter for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, as a reporter and editor at the Amarillo Globe-News, and as managing editor of The Kerrville Daily Times. He now lives and writes in Texas.



Rick Treon

Deep Background

Black Rose Writing

Paperback, 978-1-68-433167-3 (Kindle ebook also available); 228 pages, $18.95

December 6, 2018



Former Texas newspaper reporter and editor Rick Treon’s first completed work of fiction is an impressive, realistic dark thriller with an unnerving conclusion that wisely leaves a pathway open for a follow-up novel.


In Deep Background, Levi Cole, the chief investigative reporter for a Dallas newspaper, is forced to leave his high-profile job suddenly because of questionable writings that could bring him and his employer big lawsuits. To get out of the limelight for a while, Cole returns to his rural Texas hometown of Bison Ridge to help a colleague and married ex-girlfriend cover a murder.


However, as he digs deeper and deeper, Cole eventually discovers that he has gotten himself caught in a deep conspiracy that goes well beyond the murder. And his entrapment will compel him not only to take sides — a huge no-no for an “objective” reporter — but also to make disturbing choices.


The book’s other characters include frequent staples in West Texas novels: sheriffs, deputies, Texas Rangers, politicians and their aides, small-town newspaper people, high school students, and an assortment of weird and violent creeps who initially seem fairly normal. All are handled smoothly and without veering into over-the-top Texas caricature. The author also has a good ear for dialogue.


Sex, drugs, liquor, oil, fracking, religion, infidelity, and football are included in the backdrop as Deep Background unfolds in and around fictional Bison Ridge. And, echoing the novel’s contemporary setting, at least one charge of “fake news” makes a cameo appearance.


Rick Treon apparently has listened to the earnest, write-what-you-know lectures that new novelists often receive from editors, critics, and writing instructors. Indeed, one of the strengths of Deep Background is Treon’s firsthand understanding of the current media world, especially newspapers, where the numbers of paid subscribers keep dropping “like a landslide” and reporters’ paychecks and continued employment are both linked to how many “clicks” their stories receive once posted online. High click numbers help a newspaper sell advertising.


At the same time, the link between clicks and paychecks can encourage reporters and editors to veer toward sensationalism. They can become more concerned with “click-bait” stories such as grisly murders and salacious scandals that grab readers’ attentions and less interested in covering important but low-click yawners such as school board meetings, city council meetings, business groundbreakings or health officials urging people to get flu shots.


Treon, a University of Texas at Austin journalism graduate, is a former reporter for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and former reporter and editor at the Amarillo Globe-News. He also was managing editor of the Kerrville Daily Times. He uses his background skillfully as he describes the tensions that drive life and decision-making in Deep Background’s fictional newsrooms.


The novel’s title comes from a solemn promise a reporter or publication may make to a source of information. For example, the Associated Press has posted a specific guideline for using information obtained via “deep background.” It states: “The information can be used but without attribution. The source does not want to be identified in any way, even on condition of anonymity.”


Naturally, in politics and in potentially damaging investigations, some people try to figure out who the “deep background” sources are and how to disrupt their credibility, scare them off, or even threaten their safety so they will retract what they may have stated. Concern over who has what on whom is a frequent undercurrent in this debut mystery thriller.


Bottom line: Deep Background is entertaining and eye-opening reading, and Rick Treon is a new novelist to watch.


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