BLACK AND WHITE
BEN H. ENGLISH
Publisher: Creative Texts Publishers
Publication Date: June 7, 2022
Pages: 250 pages
You know, I never saw an officer, an EMT, a fireman, or an ER crew ask anyone what their politics were and then refuse to care for them because of their answer. The color of skin pigment, the last name, the amount of money in a bank account, none of that mattered.
All that mattered was someone needed help, and they had the skills as well as the burning desire to do so.
Yes, they are only human and internally flawed and prejudiced as any other. But their true nature, their crowning glory in mortal life, is their ability to rise above those flaws and prejudices when called upon.
In a world of hungry, destructive wolves, they stand as the sheepdog who serves and protects the flock.
Clueless Gent’s Rating for Black and White
Although this book is classified as a memoir, it’s really an anthology of honor, dedication and commitment. Throughout his regaling of his years in the Texas Highway Patrol, I could sense the author’s respect, admiration and affection for his uniformed brethren. I’m quite sure that is a very special bond that few people ever experience.
I have the utmost respect for this author and his years wearing a Marine Corps uniform, followed by a career in law enforcement, yet he remains humbled by many of the people he served with. I’m sure there are some folks who want to know why he decided to write this book, bringing so many unpleasant memories back to the forefront of his mind. Now that I’ve read the book, I do believe the answer to that question is: these are all stories that needed re-telling.
In re-telling these stories, the author honors those who gave so much of themselves to the people they protected, as well as those who gave all. In the author’s words, “In a world of hungry, destructive wolves, they stand as the sheepdog who serves and protects the flock.”
“As a commissioned peace officer you had the legal authority to take a citizen’s time, money, freedom or their very lives.”
Trooper Ben H. English, THP (Ret.)
Some of the stories were “end of watch” stories, meaning that they told of a fellow uniformed officer who tragically died in the line of duty. Although the author was as accurate re-telling these events as best he could, the way he wrote about these officers was almost reverent. He would always begin those chapters by telling the reader what made those individuals among the best that mankind could offer. At the end of those chapters, the author would include a photo of the officer and his “end of watch” date.
However, this is not to say that the book is about death. It is not. As I mentioned, it’s about people who cared so much about other people that they put themselves in harm’s way. I think many of us who only see these people from outside the patrol car have no clue to their actions. This book can be a real eye-opened in that regard.
All is not serious. I think my favorite chapter is entitled The Curse of Christine. The chapter namesake is a 1988 Dodge Diplomat cruiser, “with a continual black cloud overhead, and an even blacker mechanical heart within.” I indeed chuckled as the author described in great detail how this car became named after the Stephen King novel. At one point, the author has to take that car to a Performance Driving Instructor School at College Station. This is how the author described going around the track driving Christine: “So there I was roaring around the track half blinded by wiper fluid, steering wheel in my lap and fighting the brake system from hell.”
If there was any logical order to the stories, I couldn’t really tell. They didn’t seem to be chronological, nor did they seem to be in any type of priority order. I’m not saying that as a bad thing; I’m just making the observation.
I’ve always been a fan of cop stories, what with Joseph Wambaugh (think The Onion Field) being among my favorite authors. One of my favorite parts of those stories was the cop talk and shenanigans that always seem to occur when out of the public eye. The author did a good job of including both of those in some of his stories. He even included the time when he met Geraldo Rivera in the line of duty.
This book ticks all the nonfiction boxes for me. It was interesting. It was heartfelt. (That’s likely an understatement.) The description could place the reader at the scene, but the author held back on describing some of the most disturbing scenes. That’s a plus for me.
If you’ve never worn a uniform that puts you in harm’s way, or if you ever wondered about the people who do—this is the book for you! Further, if you live in Texas or otherwise consider yourself a Texan, this book is a no-brainer.
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2 thoughts on “Black and White”
I so appreciate the review you wrote for my latest work ‘Black And White: Tales of the Texas Highway Patrol.’ Much like your earlier review on my fourth book ‘The Uvalde Raider,’ you have a knack for crawling into my head and understanding my motivations, goals and sometime heartbreaks in telling these stories.
For someone who declares themselves as clueless in public, you have quite the discerning nature.
God bless and thank you again,
Ben H. English
HS Teacher: 2008-2010
Author of ‘Yonderings’ (TCU Press)
‘Destiny’s Way’ (Creative Texts Publishers)
‘Out There: Essays on the Lower Big Bend’ (Creative Texts Publishers)
‘The Uvalde Raider’ (Creative Texts Publishers)
‘Black And White: Tales of the Texas Highway Patrol’ (Creative Texts Publishers)
Facebook: Ben H. English
‘Graying but still game’
Great review. I appreciated the same aspects you did, though listening to it, it felt that it did go somewhat chronologically from his early to late years in the force. I would love to get a print copy to see those images I missed in listening.