RUSK — The newly-released book, “The Ballad of Ol’ Hook” can be summed up as three people and one bull “struggling in the world of rodeo and country music,” according to its author Tom Townsend , of Rusk.

The local author, screenplay writer and military museum owner has published his 27th book.

“I’ve always been a rodeo fan,” Townsend said. “Cory Stone (Main character), a high school student at first (in the book) and his best friend go into the rodeo circuit, and it shows their long struggle from local rodeos as they try to make it to the PBR (Professional Bull Riders) and the professional rodeo association.”

Townsend, winner of numerous awards and honors for the juvenile books he’s written, added that in the sport of rodeo, traditional values are shown, including southern charm, politeness and the respect that has nearly disappeared from other sports today.

“It’s (the book) a pretty good look at American values, I think,” he said.

Townsend said Hook is the main animal character of the book, who parallels both the lives of Cory and Cory’s girlfriend, Billie Sue, who herself is struggling between being involved in rodeo with Cory, or following her dreams to become a country western singer.

“Does she follow the rodeo or does she follow her country music? She eventually chooses country music,” Townsend said. “She makes it work for her. All the characters are struggling against themselves.”

The book title, “The Ballad of Ol’ Hook,” is actually a song Billie Sue eventually writes, Townsend added.

Townsend, who’s probably most famous for his book “Where the Pirates Are,” said it took approximately nine months to create the book, from initial writing to the publishing stages and the author and his wife, Jan, have plans to turn the book into a movie.

“We’ll see what happens,” Tom said, “There’s a place for a movie about rodeos right now.”

Tom will hold a book signing from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday, June 29 at the Citizen’s First Bank in Rusk. Another book signing is scheduled for 1-3 p.m., July 8 at the Texas Bookstore in Bullard.

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Townsend shared with the Daily Progress a review by JoAn W. Martin of Baytown, Texas:

Cory Stone, age seventeen, not a kid anymore, but not quite grown either, is sent by his father out into the thickets to find the renegade cow Short Cake and her calf. As he followed the tracks, Cory wondered if the cow had realized that death stalked her. He shot the coyotes with his Winchester and rescued the bull calf from a pack that had already killed his mother. The calf showed his appreciation by charging Cory.

Billie Sue and Cory notice each other in high school, but they have different paths to follow. Cory longs for a Rodeo Championship. Billie Sue wavers between barrel racing and country music. Each time they are together they realize how different they view their future.

Hook’s owner, Bubba, used Hook’s hatred of Cory to push him into a wild, bucking bull. Bubba wanted to exploit him for the wild bull ride in the rodeos.

Cory’s partner, Hooter, maps out road trips for Cory and himself and they hit the rodeo circuit. Cory continues to repeat his mantra — No bull I can’t ride!? “No bull I can’t ride”

Billie Sue wonders if there is a place for her in country music business. But when Cory is injured in a bull riding competition, she drops everything to go to the hospital.

Unable to ride until his leg heals, even on crutches, Cory accompanies the men out to Panther Creek to find the young bull. The calf has run free for a year and managed to become best friends with a deer. In spite of Billie Sue’s apprehension, Cory determines to ride him. Hook figures it is time to get even and determines to kill every human in sight.

Billie Sue sees Cory in her nightmares trying to ride a fire-breathing bull with steel horns. In an unbelievable series of events, Billie Sue’s hit song about a bull takes off and she and the bull become celebrities.

Tom Townsend’s strong point in previous novels is his ability to write from the animal’s point of view. He puts the reader inside Hook’s head. With just the right touch, we view the world through the vicious bull’s eyes and feel the emotions of his love for his deer friend. His hatred for humans exceeds even his hatred of horses and ropes, deeper even than his hatred of coyotes.

Humans took away his world and his only friend, an orphaned fawn. Humans took away his horns. Quietly, his hatred grew.

When Hook listens to humans talk as they set up a deer feeder, he realizes that he has become an urban legend, and he and his deer friend can destroy the feeder and have all the corn to eat.

Renny James has done an outstanding cover with shadowy cowboys sitting on the fence at the rodeo, watching an expert rider stay on the bucking bull. The reader can almost hear the crowd yelling, ‘Ride ‘em, cowboy.’

Billie Sue’s song says it best:

“A lifetime can pass in one eight-second ride,

while true love gets lost in the roar of the crowd.”