Thomas "Tom" Cooke is entering a young man's field, he says, but no way is he going to let that stop him.
The 65-year-old author of the upcoming novel, "The Memoirs of Bear: Nueces means Nuts," is hesitant at first as he speaks over the telephone about his life, unsure of what to make of the interviewer asking him about his journey to published writer.
"I actually had an idea to write a private eye story many years ago," Tom says with a chuckle.
His character, Bear, is one of those ideas that bounce around a person's head for years, until an opportunity comes along that allows it to become a living thing in its own right. For Tom, that moment was a long time coming.
A Robstown native, Tom graduated from Robstown High School in 1962. His father, Douglas, even coached the school's football team a few years earlier.
Like many high school graduates, he left the city after graduation to begin his writing career, working at a local television station at night preparing reports for the newscasters. Soon after, he joined the U.S. Army's 48th Assault Helicopter Company and fought in Vietnam. He retired from service in 1971.
Afterward, he tried his hand at college, attending both the University of Texas at Austin and North Texas State, though Tom readily admits that he did not graduate from either one.
Rather, he decided to go into business for himself.
He later became a private contractor in the cable industry, doing everything from installing cable in homes to conducting technical writing of the manuals for the boxes. It was this field that kept him going until recently, when he suffered a stroke that forced him to realize maybe it was time to slow things down.
He began to remember the love he had for writing and reading, the latter of which used to keep him enthralled as a child with the old mystery comic books of his youth.
"I wanted to retire," Tom says. "So, I sat down in front of a computer and put words down."
Bear, a sort of rough-around-the-edges character, is based off of those detective stories of Tom's childhood, a throwback to a time before the Internet and television, when the only visual aid a person had was a good, old fashioned imagination. The story, set in Corpus Christi, tells of Bear's attempt to solve a murder.
It was a story that Tom says he enjoyed writing, but was still pleasantly surprised when a publisher contacted him in February, letting him know the book was going to be released. He had seen short stories of his published in small magazines around the country, but nothing on this scale.
"I was on top of the world," Tom says with a laugh, now starting to loosen up as he begins to discuss how his hard work paid off.
At 65, Tom says he understands how lucky he is to be given this opportunity. He does not have the appearance of those youthful authors on the back covers of most books - he has a ponytail and still enjoys riding a motorcycle after 50 years of doing so.
What makes it even more extraordinary, is the fact that publishers are seemingly less willing to take on smaller, unknown writers, Tom says, and that makes it harder for new names to make it into the business. With a sigh, he admits that it is an ugly side to the business - relying on the sure thing than taking risks, especially in the current economic climate.
Tom says he may be new to the book publishing business, but to him, one thing is for certain.
"The big publishers aren't going to make it if they only have a few guys writing," Tom says, his voice rising in frustration at the idea. "But writers don't have a choice. If they're writers, they're going to write."
For now, though, Tom says he plans to focus on the good. More than ever, he says, he will think about how grateful he is that he and Bear have finally been given a chance to shine.
"A tale told well was what I always appreciated…that was what I've set out to do," Tom says with another laugh. "I must be doing something right."