Larry Bozka died of cancer on January 5, at 4:30.

I know the time, because I’d checked my phone at that exact moment, waiting for an electrician who was keeping me from going to my deer stand.

Outdoor enthusiasts, hunters, and fishermen in Texas knew about Boz, because he was an outstanding photojournalist with credits in countless outdoor publications, Past President of the Texas Outdoor Writers Association, former editor of Texas Fish and Game Magazine, and the author of Larry Bozka’s Saltwater Strategies, before launching into a long list of successful photographic and video endeavors too numerous to list here.

Boz gave me a chance, way back in 1992. I’d reached out to him via snail mail to see if he was interested in allowing me to write for a pulp outdoor newsletter I can’t name today. It was a statewide publication and I thought it would give me the opportunity to get my name out there, since I was working hard to expand my self-syndicated newspaper column.

He called long distance from Houston a few days after getting my packet, and hired me on the spot to write for him. We talked for an hour on the phone that day, on his dime, and from the moment I heard his voice, we were friends.

Taking a pretty much unknown writer under his wing, he gave me the opportunity to expand my imagination. I wrote humor for his paper, and we spent hours in the field, planning our next adventure, story ideas, and where we wanted to be twenty years from then.

From there Boz moved over to become editor of Texas Fish and Game, and brought me along, giving me the opportunity to write whatever I want. He was a gentle editor, who taught me much.

Then we lost our minds and took figurative shots at everything we could think of in an insane satirical publication called the National Fish Rapper. He was encouraging to a budding author, always there when I had a question or thought. He was a mentor, editor, friend, and never knew what he did for me.

Hang in here with me as this meandering trail brings me to my days as a middle school photography teacher. This was the late 1970s and early 80s, a time full of great rock and roll, parachute pants on the boys, Calvin Klein jeans and long bangs on the girls, and a troubled kid named Mark B.

Back then I had a reputation as a hard teacher who was a disciplinarian, and one who taught a fun class at the same time. Because of that, a number of floundering students appeared in my room who needed whatever it was that I could offer.

Mark was one of them. He’d been kicked out of most of his classes at one time or another and was no stranger to expulsion. Tougher than boot leather, he was always in trouble and tended to fight other guys at the drop of a hat. With a squad of toadies following behind, he cut quite a swath through the school.

I didn’t put up with much back then, and he and I butted heads almost on a daily basis. Once night he broke into the school, kicked through walls to access the principal’s office. I won’t go into details about what he left in the principal’s desk drawer, but suffice it to say that everything in there had to be thrown away.

Finding success and satisfaction in breaking through sheetrock that night, he turned his attention to my classroom. The hole in my wall reminded me of the Road Runner or Coyote punching through billboards. He tore the room apart to teach me a lesson.

For his enthusiasm, he wound up being expelled for the remainder of the year, and I never heard another word about Mark.

Four or five years ago the Bride and I went to Billy Bob’s dance hall in Ft. Worth to see Mark Chesnutt. I met the country music star through Boz (wait for the connection…) and we became friends. Mark loves to fish, and so do I, so the three of us had a great time in Rockport, Texas, sharing the outdoors and creating stories that should never be told.

At Billy Bob’s that night I sent word backstage to Mark, telling him I was there and would like to come back and visit with him before the show. I got a note ten minutes later to come through a specific stage door.

Note in hand, the Bride and I went backstage and were stopped in a dark hallway by a big deputy sheriff who looked at the note, then down at me.

“You aren’t going back there right now.”

I looked up at the bear-sized lawman. “This note came from Mark himself. Here’s his handwriting.”

“Nope. You’re not going in there.”

Face flushing with anger, I looked at the Bride for support. For once she didn’t have any answer except for a raised eyebrow, so I turned to the big guy. “I’m not sure what I’ve done to offend you, but we’d just like to go back and visit with my friend.”

“Mr. Wortham, you and I have something to talk about first.”

I paused. “Do I know you?”

“You did, Mr. Wortham. I’m Mark B.”

My eyes widened in shock.

The big guy grinned. “Thought I was in the pen, didn’t you?”

“Frankly, yes. But you’re a deputy sheriff. How….?”

“Because of you, and the principal. I was out of control when I was a kid, but you two talked to me, and listened, and y’all stayed on me. You encouraged me in class, and it stuck, though I didn’t know it at the time.

“All that kicked in a few years later when I got in trouble again. It wasn’t pretty, but the judge sealed my records and I straightened up. If it wasn’t for y’all, I’d be in prison, but you helped turn me around.”

Then he hugged me, and I disappeared as that big guy wrapped his arms around me. I had only one thing to say.

“Don’t hurt me.”

He pushed me back and grinned. “I just want to thank you for taking the time to work with me.”

We talked for a few more minutes before he allowed us backstage, which is another story that evolved that night.

Part of my point is that Boz introduced me to Chesnutt, who in a roundabout way allowed me to talk with Mark B., a success story I would have never know about.

The second point is that we don’t know what impact we have on others. One student in my photography class eventually became the Chief Photographer for Texas Parks and Wildlife Magazine, who has a connection with…Larry Bozka.

Boz’s passing leads me to this observation. We don’t know what future impact a kind word, or a kind act can have on someone. Giving a writer positive feedback might be all they need to continue trying to make it. Honest critiques can make all the difference. Maybe nothing but a sincere, encouraging word is all we need to offer.

I’ll always hear his encouraging voice that was supportive and full of life and humor. Helping and encouraging freshmen writers was always part of his mission, and it should be ours as published authors, too.

It was because of Larry Bozka, and others who believed in me, that I’ve achieved success as a newspaper columnist, magazine writer and monthly columnist still for Texas Fish and Game, and an author 15 novels and counting.

He was one of a kind, and readers everywhere will miss that twinkle in his eyes and his distinctive writing voice. We

I lift my glass to Boz. Another fine writer and friend gone.

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About Reavis Wortham

Two time Spur Award winning author Reavis Z. Wortham pens the Texas Red River historical mystery series, and the high-octane Sonny Hawke contemporary western thrillers. His new Tucker Snow series begins in 2022. The Red River books are set in rural Northeast Texas in the 1960s. Kirkus Reviews listed his first novel in a Starred Review, The Rock Hole, as one of the “Top 12 Mysteries of 2011.” His Sonny Hawke series from Kensington Publishing features Texas Ranger Sonny Hawke and debuted in 2018 with Hawke’s Prey. Hawke’s War, the second in this series won the Spur Award from the Western Writers Association of America as the Best Mass Market Paperback of 2019. He also garnered a second Spur for Hawke’s Target in 2020. A frequent speaker at literary events across the country. Reavis also teaches seminars on mystery and thriller writing techniques at a wide variety of venues, from local libraries to writing conventions, to the Pat Conroy Literary Center in Beaufort, SC. He frequently speaks to smaller groups, encouraging future authors, and offers dozens of tips for them to avoid the writing pitfalls and hazards he has survived. His most popular talk is entitled, My Road to Publication, and Other Great Disasters. He has been a newspaper columnist and magazine writer since 1988, penning over 2,000 columns and articles, and has been the Humor Editor for Texas Fish and Game Magazine for the past 25 years. He and his wife, Shana, live in Northeast Texas. All his works are available at your favorite online bookstore or outlet, in all formats. Check out his website at “Burrows, Wortham’s outstanding sequel to The Rock Hole combines the gonzo sensibility of Joe R. Lansdale and the elegiac mood of To Kill a Mockingbird to strike just the right balance between childhood innocence and adult horror.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review) “The cinematic characters have substance and a pulse. They walk off the page and talk Texas.” —The Dallas Morning News On his most recent Red River novel, Laying Bones: “Captivating. Wortham adroitly balances richly nuanced human drama with two-fisted action, and displays a knack for the striking phrase (‘R.B. was the best drunk driver in the county, and I don’t believe he run off in here on his own’). This entry is sure to win the author new fans.” —Publishers Weekly “Well-drawn characters and clever blending of light and dark kept this reader thinking of Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes, and Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird.” —Mystery Scene Magazine

22 thoughts on “Boz

  1. What a heart-warming story, Rev. Boz would be pleased to read how he helped you and you, in turn, helped someone else. That’s the best legacy he could leave behind on this earth.

    • I’m not the only one whose career was lifted by this generous man. I’d be willing to be there’s an army of writers who learned from such a great writer, photographer, and author. Many thanks.

  2. I’m sorry for your loss.

    What a touching post and much needed reminder. And I am absolutely thrilled that you had a chance later on to speak with Mark B and see how his life had turned around thanks to your impact on him earlier. So often we go through life trying to do our best to have a positive impact but the majority of time, we really have no way of knowing the impact of our lives on others—whether by something we said or did or someone simply watching our lives to see how we live.

    To this day I can remember the name of the grade school teacher who encouraged me in my writing and who had my poem published in our small county paper (I cringe when I think back on that poem now. LOL!). I’ve always wished I’d had a Mark B moment where I could thank her for that, but given the passage of time, I’m certain she has been gone for quite a number of years. Had a great encourager in high school too.

    Back in 2014, I got an awesome encouraging note from an instructor who was very impressed with a project I did in community college. That touched me so much I printed the email out and pasted it on a piece of foam board—I keep it in my living room where I can see it.

    I’m so thankful for the Bozes in our lives and I pray that we will all do our best to be a Boz to others. We truly will never know what an awesome difference it can make in someone’s life.

    • I have several letters in a file from noted, successful journalists and authors who have supported my efforts to get published. Mr. Gene Hill, Mr. William Berry (who wrote long hand), Joe R. Lansdale, and several others were mentors, though they didn’t know it at the time. I never hurts to be kind.

      Thanks a lot!

  3. Wonderful story, Rev. Boz left quite a legacy, and now you’re passing it on.

    We can only hope that our words will benefit someone downstream.

    Leave a Legacy!

    • We get so caught up in our daily lives and miseries that we forget what an encouraging word can do. I try to be a better person and not brush people off.

      Just yesterday at the grocery store, the Bride and I rolled into the checkout lane and I handed the young sacker a package of reusable bags. They’re a pain to cart around, but the distaff likes them. The young man took them when I asked him to load them first, and he said, “These in here?”

      My first inclination was snippy answer like, “That’s why I gave them to you.:’

      But I remembered how it felt to be talked down to, so I just gave him a smile, then realized he was a special ed student who also dealt with some kind of muscular issue. Popping off might have crushed the youngster, but that smile and the offer to help made him laugh out loud.

      It’s the little things.

      ‘preciate you, Steve.

  4. A moving tribute to your friend, Rev. The difference we make in the lives of others is indeed a precious legacy. It’s what we writers hope our words will do, in ways large or small.

    Like Steve wrote above, leave a legacy by making a difference for someone else.

  5. Lovely tribute for Boz, who sounds like quite a man. We all need mentors. I was lucky enough to have a good one, and his writing lessons stay with me to this day. Continue to pass on Boz’s legacy.

    • I had a mentor who disappointed me, though. My creative writing instructor in junior college helped me move forward way back in 1972. When my first novel was published in 2010, I went back and found her, still at the college, but in a supervisor’s position.

      I told her how much she helped, and asked if she’d care to blurb or make some kind of comment I could use.

      “I don’t do that. I’m too busy.”

      I’ve been too busy to mention her in any of my talks, inverviews, or writing classes. It’s not hard to be kind, is it?


    • That’s true. I’ve run into only a small handful of former students who told me I nudge them in some way. But that’s all right, there are others I wonder about.

      One is a young warhorse who made a name for herself for two years before entering my class for the first time. She and I had what I call a “come to Jesus” meeting that first five minutes. After I laid down the law, then showed her that I’d immediately follow up on her antics and disrespect, she became a constant presence all day long. She was my “best friend” that year, and I was the only teacher who didn’t have trouble out of her.

      I disremember her name and have often wondered what happened to her. Maybe I helped in some way, far down the road.

      thank you kindly

  6. What a fine and lovely tribute, Rev. I’m reminded of my beloved English teacher in high school, Mrs Marjorie Bruce. She thought she saw some talent in me, and encouraged me all the way through school. I had to go to college to find out I didn’t have what it takes to be a writer, for that’s what they told me there. I kept in touch with Mrs Bruce, however, and when I finally found out I could learn this writing business, I was so pleased to be able to send her a copy of my first novel.

    So when I’ve had the opportunity to coach a wannabe writer, even those who it seems on the surface might not make it, I always try to offer encouragement and a next step. Because step by step is how I learned to do it. And you just never know who has the grit to move on. It’s been gratifying to see so many I’ve had a chance to interact with get to publishable fiction. As that old commercial said, priceless.

  7. It’s sad to lose a mentor at any stage in the relationship, so I can understand and appreciate your loss. My mentor for 30 years was Edith Battles, a 5th grade teacher and Ray Bradbury’s driver to his annual talks at Southwest Manuscripters in Torrance. Her critiques were kind, insightful, and, above all, funny. Pardon and ytpos; i’m haveing a litte trouble seeing, right now,

  8. I’m sorry for your loss. What a great tribute and what a blessing he was to you. Plus it’s heartwarming to hear how you influenced Mark’s life. May he continue to pay it forward. Hugs and peace.

  9. Beautiful tribute, Rev. I’m so sorry for your loss.

    Thanks also for the reminder that everything we say or do impacts others even though we may never know the extent of it. I’m grateful for the parents, relatives, teachers, and friends who have poured into my life over the years and pointed the way forward. I join you in lifting a glass (milkshake, actually) to all those who serve as mentors.

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