Texas novelist dies at 72

Texas novelist, essayist, book critic, and English professor Richard “Clay” Reynolds died April 14, 2022, at his home in Lowry Crossing, Texas, near McKinney, after a brief battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 72.

Reynolds, who grew up in Quanah, Texas, was the author of sixteen books, including six works of nonfiction, and nine novels, plus a short-story collection. He has been labeled variously as a “Texas” and “Western” writer and sometimes as a “historical fiction” writer. Yet Clay Reynolds’s works often defied easy labels. Reynolds also wrote poetry, hundreds of essays, plus numerous works of scholarly analysis, and more than a thousand book reviews and other pieces. Some of his best-known novels include The Vigil, Franklin’s Crossing, The Tentmaker, Threading the Needle, and Vox Populi.

He received a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Texas at Austin in 1971. Three years later, at Trinity University in San Antonio, Reynolds earned a master’s in English, specializing in twentieth-century American literature. In 1979, he received a Ph.D. in modern literature from the University of Tulsa.

After Reynolds became an English professor, he also pursued writing fiction and other works, as well as academic articles and essays. He credited novelists John Knowles and Larry McMurtry with helping inspire him to write novels and short stories. He taught at Lamar University until 1988 and then was hired to be a novelist-in-residence and professor at the University of North Texas in Denton. In 1992, he left UNT to work full time as a writer but also accepted short-term teaching assignments at several other universities in Texas and beyond. In 1998, he became a professor of arts and humanities at the University of Texas at Dallas and served as an associate dean. When he retired from UTD in 2019, he was director of the university’s creative writing program.  

Among his many writing awards, Reynolds received a 2012 Spur Award for best western short story and received two literary awards in 2018 from the Texas Institute of Letters: The Kay Cattarula Award for Best Short Fiction and the Bud Shrake Award for Best Short Nonfiction.

Reynolds donated his body to the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. A private service is planned for a date to be announced later. Survivors include his wife, Judy, his son, Wesley, his brother, Tim, five grandchildren, and other family members.

Click to read the 2016 Lone Star Listens interview with Clay