I am the author of eleven books of fiction and nonfiction (listed below with publisher’s blurbs), including the memoir Into that Good Night, a short list finalist for a national PEN prize. I taught English and Creative Writing on the Texas gulf coast for many years and continue to conduct writing workshops.  In 2007 I was inducted into the Texas Institute of Letters. My wife Karen, also a retired teacher, and I recently moved to a suburb of Houston to be closer to our grandchildren and the Astros (maybe in that order).

Woodcut by Barbara Mathews Whitehead for the cover of Sundays with Ron Rozelle (TCU Press / 2009)


Into That Good Night

Strong-willed and charismatic, Lester Rozelle was school superintendent in the small East Texas town of Oakwood from the 1930s to the 1960’s. A deep-rooted fixture in the community, he guided his schools through disastrous fires and the strained process of integration in President Lyndon Johnson’s home state. When he began to show signs of Alzheimer’s disease, the author had to watch the painful transformation of his proud father into a dependent and ultimately foreign person.

Into That Good Night is a son’s gift. Seemingly powerless to do anything but witness the slow loss of his father’s past, Ron Rozelle re-creates and reclaims his own past: the dusty streets, tired old houses, and wallpapered rooms of his childhood. Rozelle tells of his early, confused discovery of racial inequality, his induction into the military, his decision to become a teacher himself, and the deaths of his parents. Poignant and impressionistic, Into That Good Night is a heartbreakingly lyrical memoir whose fine cadences and shining images will echo for a long time to come.

Hardcover / Trade Paperback / Kindle


The Windows of Heaven: A Novel of Galveston’s Great Storm of 1900

Set in Galveston during the 1900 storm, the most devastating natural disaster in the history of the United States, this sweeping novel follows the fates of several richly drawn characters. It is the story of Sal, the little girl who is wise beyond her years and who holds out as much hope for the world as she does for her father, the ruined son of a respected father.

It is the story of Sister Zilphia, the nun who helps run the St. Mary’s Orphanage. The only thing separating the two long buildings of the orphanage is a fragile line of sand dunes; the only thing separating Zilphia from the world is the brittle faith that she has been sent there to consider. A faith that has never been truly tested. Until now.

And it is the story of Galveston herself, the grand old lady of the Gulf Coast, with her harbor filled with ships from the world over; her Victorian homes and her brothels and her grand pavilions set in their own parks; and her stately mansions along Broadway, the highest ground on the island, at eight feet above sea level. All must face their darkest night now, as nature hurls the worst she can muster at the narrow strip of sand and saltgrass that is doomed to become, for a time, part of the ocean floor.

This is the story of heroes and villains, of courage and sacrifice and, most of all, of people trying desperately to survive. And it is the story of an era now gone, of splendor and injustice, filled with the simple joy of living.

Trade Paperback / Audio Book

A Place Apart

Ron Rozelle, author of Into That Good Night and The Windows of Heaven, focuses again on his unique brand of characters and situations in a new novel set in modern-day Ohio

Sam, a reclusive underachiever with a long track record of failed marriages and aspirations, must face, in one short spurt of time, the imminent prospects of middle age, professional outplacement, and unwanted responsibilities toward both his father and his son, two men whom he has spent long and careful effort to distance himself from.

A Place Apart is at once witty and wry and beautiful, filled with vivid description and sharp dialogue. It hits solidly on dilemmas faced daily by many people in many places by telling a compelling story of one man in one place. It is a finely honed novel that will continue to sing a haunting, recognizable song long after the reader has finished the last page.

Hardcover / Trade Paperback / Kindle / Audio Book

Touching Winter: A Novel in Four Parts

Touching Winter is a four-part evocation of memory and place and the yearning for home. Each part of the novel begins with a meditation on one aspect of the protagonist’s life as he watches the unpredictable weather of East Texas. When Will was a young boy, he and his grandfather enjoyed being out in the spectacular East Texas storms. These sessions taught Will many things about life—ranching, weather, character; how to be a man—and bound Will to the family land and to his grandfather. Only at the ranch does Will feel like the person he was, or would like to be, before wrong decisions turned his life down an entirely different path.

A powerful, early romance turned disastrous, but the relationship haunts him. To compensate for lost love, Will carved a niche for himself in the competitive concrete industry, inventing a technique to make mixing trucks more efficient and becoming wealthier than he could have dreamed. His marriage to a Houston socialite is thin and brittle, unsatisfying for his wife, Lauren, and for himself. Their daughter Aimee lives in California, as far away from her family as possible.

As Will ages, he turns to the ranch as a place of clarity in times of crisis, eventually moving back there entirely. He exchanges the public life he and Lauren led in Houston for the simplicity of walks along the rustic fence, lunch at the town’s only diner with old friends, and long evenings on the porch watching the stars. Along the way, a fierce, red-breasted hawk comes to represent the spiritual for Will, and he is forced to face the consequences of earlier decisions.


Leaving the Country of Sin

Leaving the Country of Sin is a tale of Rafferty, who was saved as a teenager from a promising career of juvenile delinquency and slapped into a six-year hitch in the army to avoid jail time. Early on his anger and fierce resolve catch the attention of an officer in charge of a small cadre of soldiers who provide unique, subdued solutions to problems that are too sensitive for more obvious snipers or commandos.

But it is also the story of the inner reckoning the central character faces once his army career is complete. Rafferty, having long determined to retire on Galveston Island, which he had visited as a child with his uncle, hovers between seeing his past deeds as providing a patriotic service and just another form of murder.
The dilemma is intensified when his old mentor, the general who pulled him into that world and managed him for two decades, shows up with an assignment that will rid the world of a very  evil man, whose actions threaten the security of the nation. Thus the story, already an inward journey motif, becomes a real one, sending Rafferty off on what he determines is his last mission, one he wishes hadn’t fallen to him.

Trade Paperback / Kindle / Audio Book


My Boys and Girls Are in There: The 1937 New London School Explosion

On March 18, 1937, a spark ignited a vast pool of natural gas that had collected beneath the school building in New London, a tiny community in East Texas. The resulting explosion leveled the four-year-old structure and resulted in a death toll of more than three hundred—most of them children. To this day, it is the worst school disaster in the history of the United States. The tragedy and its aftermath were the first big stories covered by Walter Cronkite, then a young wire service reporter stationed in Dallas. He would later say that no war story he ever covered—during World War II or Vietnam—was as heart-wrenching.

In the weeks following the tragedy, a fact-finding committee sought to determine who was to blame. It soon became apparent that the New London school district had, along with almost all local businesses and residents, tapped into pipelines carrying unrefined gas from the plentiful oil fields of the area. It was technically illegal, but natural gas was in abundance in the “Oil Patch.” The jerry-rigged conduits leaked the odorless “green” gas that would destroy the school.

A long-term effect of the disaster was the shared guilt experienced—for the rest of their lives—by most of the survivors. There is, perhaps, no better example than Bill Thompson, who was in his fifth grade English class and “in the mood to flirt” with Billie Sue Hall, who was sitting two seats away. Thompson asked another girl to trade seats with him. She agreed—and was killed in the explosion, while Thompson and Hall both survived and lived long lives, never quite coming to terms with their good fortune.

My Boys and Girls Are in There: The 1937 New London School Explosion is a meticulous, candid account by veteran educator and experienced author Ron Rozelle. Unfolding with the narrative pace of a novel, the story woven by Rozelle—beginning with the title—combines the anguished words of eyewitnesses with telling details from the historical and legal record. Released to coincide with the seventy-fifth anniversary of the New London School disaster, My Boys and Girls Are in There paints an intensely human portrait of this horrific event.

Hardcover / Kindle

Exiled: The Last Days of Sam Houston

After an undisputed record of political achievement—leading the decisive battle for Texas independence at San Jacinto, serving twice as president of the Republic of Texas, twice again as a United States senator after annexation, and finally as governor of Texas—Sam Houston found himself in the winter of his life in a self-imposed exile among the pines of East Texas.

Houston was often a bundle of complicated contradictions. He was a spirited advocate for public education but had little formal education himself. He was very much “a Jackson man” but disagreed with his mentor on the treatment of Native Americans. He was a slaveholder who opposed abolition but scuttled his own political reputation by resisting the South’s move toward secession.

After refusing to take an oath of loyalty to the Confederacy in 1861, Houston was swiftly evicted from the governor’s office. “Let me tell you what is coming,” he later said from a window at the Tremont Hotel in Galveston. “After the sacrifice of countless millions of treasure and hundreds of thousands of lives, you may win Southern independence if God be not against you, but I doubt it.” Houston died just two years later, and the nation was indeed fractured.

Ron Rozelle’s masterful biographical portrait here lingers on Houston’s final years, especially as lived out in Huntsville, when so much of his life’s work seemed on the verge of coming undone. Artfully written for the general reader, Exiled: The Last Days of Sam Houston is a compelling look at Sam Houston’s legacy and twilight years.

Hardcover / Kindle

Warden: Prison Life and Death from the Inside Out (with Jim Willett)

The story of the author’s thirty-year career in Texas prisons, from his first night as a shotgun-wielding guard to the last man he accompanied to the death chamber, Willett remembers not just the big events of his career but the small ones that give prison life its texture. In measured but powerful prose, he describes the efficient actions of the tie-down team, the prisoner’s often meandering last words, and the way that he himself lifted his glasses from his nose to signal the executioner to start the IV flow.

Jim Willett is director of the Texas Prison Museum in Huntsville, Texas. He narrated the radio documentary “Witness to an Execution,” which aired on National Public Radio’s Morning Edition and won a Peabody Award in 2000. Ron Rozelle teaches creative writing and his novels include A Place Apart, The Windows of Heaven, and Into That Good Night, which was a finalist for the PEN American West Creative Nonfiction Prize.


The Road to Enterprise: One Man’s Journey in the Land of Opportunity (with Arch Aplin, Jr.)

Mark Twain couldn’t have penned a finer boyhood than mine. I was Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer rolled into one, and Harrisonburg was any moon-washed river town that Huck and Jim would have floated past on their raft. While much of the nation forged headlong into the relatively new century, shooting skyscrapers higher and higher and flying aircraft unfathomable distances, Harrisonburg and its neighboring towns clung comfortably to the past, making do with mostly one story buildings, as many horse-drawn wagons as motorcars, and boats that had slowly plied the river for decades. Anyone making their way up to the town from the river had to pass the top of the bluff, between a pair of businesses owned by Arch Aplin, Esquire. Who was, in addition to being my father, a walking embodiment of an entrepreneur. One business being a cotton gin and the other a general mercantile store.

Before I was old enough to venture out on my own or to go to school, my mother would take me with her to the store every early morning and Id stay there all day, watching the shoppers come and go. When it was time for a nap, Id stretch out on a cot in the back room and close my eyes and take in all the smells of the place and listen as women chattered away around the stove. The jingling bell over the front door and the clanging of the cash register are perhaps the earliest sounds I remember. They’ve played like a sweet tune down the years. I’ve finally come to realize that they really might have been more than just pleasing sounds. They may have been a sirens call to the inviting waters of commerce.

Hardcover / Trade Paperback /Kindle

Collected Columns

Sundays with Ron Rozelle

When Ron Rozelle and Bill Cornwell, the publisher of The Brazosport Facts, met for their annual lunch, Bill asked what current book Ron was writing. During lunch, they agreed that Ron should try his hand at a weekly column. Ron saw an opportunity both to allow his imagination to wander and to flex his writing muscles.And so, it started. Each week, readers opened their Sunday morning papers to find a column devoted to whatever topic was at hand, be it wizards, geese, holidays, loss, John Wayne, his feline quartet, or sandwiches. Sundays with Ron Rozelle is a collection of these Sunday columns, characterized by open conversational charm that invites the reader to linger over coffee. Just as Robert Frost’s famous poem “The Pasture” concludes with “you come, too,” Ron beckons to us: you come, too. Through this warm and thoughtful collection, we realize what really matters in our lives.

Trade Paperback / Kindle


Description & Setting: Techniques and Exercises for Creating a Believable World of People, Places, and Events

A volume in the Writers’ Digest Books Write Great Fiction Series

How essential is setting to a story? How much description is too much? In what ways do details and setting tie into plot and character development? How can you use setting and description to add depth to your story?

You can find all the answers you need in Write Great Fiction: Description & Setting by author and instructor Ron Rozelle. This nuts-and-bolts guide – complete with practical exercises at the end of each chapter – gives you all the tips and techniques you need to:

   • Establish a realistic sense of time and place
   • Use description and setting to drive your story
   • Craft effective description and setting for different genres
   • Skillfully master showing vs. telling

With dozens of excerpts from some of today’s most popular writers, Write Great Fiction: Description & Setting gives you all the information you need to create a sharp and believable world of people, places, events, and actions.

Trade Paperback / Kindle