Two for the Road is a hangout for mystery writers Tammy Kaehler and Simon Wood to chat, reminisce, gossip, speculate and argue about all things motorsport.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

“My” Austin Grand Prix (A Guest Post)

With IndyCar and F1 heading to Austin in the coming weeks, I thought I'd hand the reins over to my friend Terry Shames.  Her book, A KILLING AT COTTON HILL, is a mystery but it surrounds the building of motor racing circuit in Texas.  I'll leave it to Terry to tell you the rest.

“My” Austin Grand Prix
By Terry Shames

I went to Austin last week and as luck would have it flew right over the breathtaking new Circuit of the Americas Formula One racetrack—or, as I think of it, “my” racetrack. From the air it looks like a video game ready to start up, all bright colors and snappy-looking buildings. It’s a racing aficionado’s dream.

My friend Conrad is an expert on restoring vintage Alfa Romeos. Go into his workshop in west Berkeley and you’ll always find some vintage Alfa being overhauled. He is in great demand for racing rallies to repair those elegant little cars when they break down. His wife, Christine, drives the “crash truck,” a pro in her own way. They’ve been invited to races all over the world.

Last fall they were desperate to attend the debut season of U.S. Formula One in Austin at the Circuit of the Americas track. They had managed to snag tickets, but couldn’t begin to afford the jacked up hotel prices. They knew I had relatives in Austin and that I understood their excitement about the debut races. They asked if I could appeal to my friends and relatives for a place to stay. My sister immediately offered her house, laughing because she thought it was appropriate that friends of mine would be at the grand opening of “my” racetrack.

“My racetrack?” I’ve been to car races many times, even spending a season holding signs in the pit for racers in Gaithersburg, Maryland. But I have a different kind of connection with the Austin track. A couple of years ago I wrote a mystery novel that came out last month. A KILLING AT COTTON HILL, set in small-town Texas, features an ex-chief of police, Samuel Craddock. On the trail of a killer, Craddock stumbles across a plot by a couple of con artists to buy up land. The con artists have gotten wind of a company planning to develop car racing in Texas and they wants to have a monopoly on the land that the racetrack promoters are interested in. Craddock is suspicious that in their zeal to buy the murder victim’s land, they may have killed her.

I won’t reveal whether his suspicions are correct. But the important thing is the racetrack. Here’s how Samuel Craddock imagines it: “I can almost hear the sound of those cars revving their engines and smell the odor of oil burning hot.” He thinks about the noise and the influx of outside people that need to be considered by folks living near the proposed racetrack.

After I was done writing the first draft, I gave it to my sister as a beta reader. A week after she read it, she called me, excited. “You’re not going to believe this!”  She told me the entire front page of the Austin American Statesman was about the news that Austin had been chosen as the site for the first Formula One racetrack in the U.S. It turned out that the people who developed the F1 track in Austin, had been scouting several sites for their track--including an area close to where I set my book.

I swear I didn’t have any inside information, but I’ll always think of the Circuit of the Americas as “my” racetrack. Note: the car on the front cover of the book wouldn’t be welcome at this particular track!


Terry Shames grew up in Texas. She has abiding affection for the small town where here grandparents lived, the model for the fictional town of Jarrett Creek. A resident of Berkeley, California, Terry lives with her husband, two rowdy terriers and a semi-tolerant cat. She is a member of Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America. Her second Samuel Craddock novel, THE LAST DEATH OF JACK HARBIN will be out in January 2014. Find out more about Terry and her books at

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