The Bookshelf, The Parlor, The Young Texas Reader, and the Monthly

The Texas Bookshelf is different from the The Texas Parlor, http://texasparlor.blogspot.com/ . The Texas Parlor carries "general" bookish information and non-book information and even different Texana news and notes of use to the bibliographically challenged and other nosey folks intersted in historical, literary, and cultural observations. Will's Texana Monthly may carry material from either blog, but extends itself beyond those, especially for longer compilations or treatments. The Monthly, the Bookshelf and the Parlor are all companions. So, is the Young Texas Reader http://youngtexasreader.blogspot.com/ which specialized on books and such things for the youngest to the teenagers.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

State of Disobience - Tom Kratman


A State of DisobedienceA State of Disobedience

Review by Arnold Vintner on May 5, 2010 at 1:21 am in the Fort Liberty Blog
I recently read Tom Kratman's speculative fiction novel A State of Disobedience and I think it's worth recommending.  The book was published in 2003 and is set in the near future.
John Ringo describes A State of Disobedience as "Probably the most realistic depiction of the second American revolution ever written" and I find it difficult to disagree with his assessment.  In a way the book reminds me of Robert Heinlein's masterpiece political novel The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. Both of these tomes are almost as much manuals for revolution as they are entertainment, but neither fails to entertain.
Kratman's work starts off slow but picks up nicely due to extremely well-made characters.  Tom pours heart and soul into building a large number of realistic three dimensional characters to move the plot of the novel forward.
The author borrows heavily from the dark events that led to the murders of the children of Waco, Texas during the Clinton administration.  The main antagonist is an obvious caricature of Hillary Clinton, no one having been able to foresee that George Soros would be able to push Hillary out of the Democratic nomination in 2008."  Read more ....

Spoken from the Heart - Laura Bush

     Vermont Public Radio carries NPR's "All Things Considered" gesture toward Laura Bush's biography.  It begins "In her eight years at the White House, former first lady Laura Bush had a Mona Lisa quality to her. That smile -- was it one of peace, one of joy, or was it a mask? Perhaps all three. In her new memoir, Spoken from the Heart, Laura Bush writes about her life, from her early years -- her childhood in Midland, Texas, and the night she was at the wheel when a car accident left a classmate dead -- to her experiences in the White House during her husband's two terms.
Bush begins the book with an early memory that reflects part of "a pervasive loss for my family." When she was 2 years old, her mother, Jenna Welch, gave birth to a baby boy who did not survive long enough to leave the Western Clinic in the family's hometown, deep in west Texas. He was not the only baby lost to the Welch family."  Read more at

Enron and Horton Foote's Orphans on Broadway

The New York Times reports for your information two plays there, that may come to a stage near you.

ENRON';This flashy but labored economics lesson, written by Lucy Prebble and directed by Rupert Goold, works overtime to make entertaining spectacle out of a certain Texas energy company's self-destruction. But the realization sets in early that this British-born exploration of smoke-and-mirrors finances isn't much more than smoke and mirrors itself (2:20). Broadhurst Theater, 235 West 44th Street , (212) 239-6200, telecharge.com. (Brantley)
 
'THE ORPHANS' HOME CYCLE' On the basis of the three-work production that begins this New York premiere, Horton Foote's heart-piercing nine-play family album about growing up lonely in early-20th-century Texas should be the great adventure of the theater season. Directed with cinematic fluidity by Michael Wilson (2:50). Signature Theater at Peter Norton Space, 555 West 42nd Street, Clinton , (212) 244-7529, signaturetheatre.org. (Brantley)

Deidre Kelly (Hall) Interview by Cindy Bauer

Cindy Bauer interviews Houston Christian author Deidre Kelly (Hall)
It begins: "Q: Tell us what makes you proud to be a writer from Houston, Texas?

A: There are so many wonderful writers from Texas, I am very proud to be among them. There is so much diversity in Texas; this helps lay a foundation for a great variety of experiences and interesting points of view that allows for truly unique storylines" Read more at:


http://interviewsbycindy.blogspot.com/2010/04/books-in-sync-author-spotlight.html

Texas Mystery Novels

Misterreereader revives our interest in Texas mystery writers with a posting of over 20 titles and 12 authors.  The authors include Susan Wittig Albert; . – Jay Brandon – Bill Crider. – Ben Rehder – Chris Rogers – Barbara Burnett Smith – Karen MacInerney - Leann Sweeney – Rick Riordan - Cindy Daniel  - DR Meredith- Livia J. Washburn .  Check the full list with primary sleuths and settings at

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

From Abercrombie to the Violet Crown - Burneson

Mike Cox at the Lone Star Book blog has perked up and informs us of a new volume on neighborhood history in Austin.
"From Abercrombie to the Violet Crown, A History-in-Progress: Brentwood and Crestview, Austin, Texas" by Susan Burneson. (Available from the author at nimbus@austin.rr.com, $20.)
Mike titles his article and begins: "

Book on Crestview brings back a lot of memories

"My home life didn't quite stack up to "Leave It To Beaver" level in 1958, but all these decades later, it's easy to understand why so many of us who were there tend to look back at the 1950s as an idyllic time.
You know. Safe streets. No TAKS tests or whatever they're called now. Homemade Halloween candy. Life in the suburbs, at least in Austin, Texas, USA was generally good.
A year after Russia shocked the world by launching the first man-made satellite, I lived in the Crestview neighborhood in Austin. Just a block from our duplex was the Crestview Shopping Center that in one small area provided for most of our day-to-day needs. We could shop at a small grocery store (still in business all these years later), a drug store (yep, still here), a dry cleaners, and a hardware-variety store."  Read more of Mike's essay:
http://lonestarbooks.blogspot.com/2010/02/book-on-crestview-brings-back-lot-of.html
  This is Mike, still ranging after all these years!

 

General and Monaville, Texas - Joe Bax

Joe G. Bax  JOE BAX, rancher, lawyer, author
A few months ago I was browsing a B&N bookstore and saw an interesting book.  It was short so I picked it up and began reading its 168 pages.  Finished it before I left the store.  Reconstruction period Texas with the old man and his family patching things together until racial strife emerges. The story reveals a portion of Texas not often revealed - many in Texas besides the previous slaves really didn't like the degradation of the institution and the lingering virulence.  The story is tight and moves well.  It's good for the young reader as well as adults.  Get a copy.
Other reviews:
The General and Monaville, Texas cover

Kirkus is Dead ! Kirkus Is Alive !

Kirkus Reviews ( http://www.kirkusreviews.com ) , established in 1933 was declared dead a few months ago until the Indiana Pacers' owner bought it and kept it alive.  Their reviews appear early in the publishing stream and known for their saucy commentary.  Kirkus is a mainstay for libraries and bookstores and the subscription is hefty.  A search for "Texas" at the main page brings up a variety of titles (see below) with initial nubbets of the books' reviews; to see the full review, you'll need to subscribe.  For example,

 Search Results
1 2 Next Last
Search Criteria:
Keyword(s): texas
Total Records: 20
Date Range: 02/03/2010 to 05/04/2010
Publication(s): Kirkus Reviews
Sorted By: Date in Descending order.
KEEPER
On a day when everything goes wrong, a little girl relies on the magic of the blue moon to turn things around. Since her mother swam away seven years ago, ten-year-old Keeper has lived happily with Signe on a remote slice of Texas coast, convinced
May 01, 2010 - Kirkus Reviews - Appelt, Kathi

THE FACULTY CLUB
Jeremy Davis thinks he has it made: Mere days after starting school, a high-ranking professor asks him to be his research assistant; a beautiful and brilliant classmate expresses interest in him; and he is courted by an exclusive club that
May 01, 2010 - Kirkus Reviews - Tobey, Danny

ON THE OUTSKIRTS OF NORMAL
Novelist and short-story writer Monroe (English/Texas State Univ.; Shambles, 2004, etc.) adopted Marie, an African-American baby, and raised her in the West Texas countryside where single female professors were an oddity and single white women with
Apr 15, 2010 - Kirkus Reviews - Monroe, Debra

BELLY UP
Twelve-year-old Teddy is a world traveler with a wildlife-photojournalist father and a mother who does gorilla research. Stateside, the family lives at FunJungle, the world's biggest and newest state-of-the-art zoo and theme park, the pet project of
Apr 15, 2010 - Kirkus Reviews - Gibbs, Stuart

RICHARD WRIGHT
This book, part of the publisher's series of short biographies of prominent African-Americans, isn't intended to deliver new information or surprising insights into the life and work of Richard Wright (1908–60). But given that the two major
Apr 01, 2010 - Kirkus Reviews - Wallach, Jennifer Jensen

LYNDON B. JOHNSON
Washington Monthly founder Peters (Five Days in Philadelphia: The Amazing "We Want Willkie!" Convention of 1940 and How It Freed FDR to Save the Western World, 2005, etc.) paints a mostly unpleasant portrait of a fiercely ambitious climber who
Apr 01, 2010 - Kirkus Reviews - Peters, Charles

WELCOME TO UTOPIA
The author starts slowly, but once she gets rid of the early-on clichs ("Roots are rare these days"), she emerges as a sensitive, candid and balanced observer of life in a town that is both everywhere and nowhere. Valby first tries to establish
Mar 15, 2010 - Kirkus Reviews - Valby, Karen

GALVESTON
Violence shadowed Roy Cady's childhood in East Texas. His alcoholic father fell to his death; his mother killed herself. She had worked for a bar owner and racketeer, and at 17 Roy started working for him too. Eventually he moved to New Orleans and
Mar 15, 2010 - Kirkus Reviews - Pizzolatto, Nic

HOLLY BLUES
Although traffic has been slow at her shops, China and her family—her husband Mike McQuaid, private eye and part-time college professor, his son Brian, and China's niece Caitlin—are making do. When Mike's former wife, Brian's mom Sally Strahorn,
Mar 15, 2010 - Kirkus Reviews - Albert, Susan Wittig

AT THE EDGE OF THE PRECIPICE
Although Illinois Senator Stephen A. Douglas actually pressed for the passing of the separate bills that effectively became the Compromise of 1850, it was Kentucky Senator Henry Clay who hammered the various proposals by Northerners and Southerners
Mar 01, 2010 - Kirkus Reviews - Remini, Robert V.

Kirkus Is Dead ! Kirkus Is Alive !

Kirkus Reviews ( http://www.kirkusreviews.com ) , established in 1933 was declared dead a few months ago until the Indiana Pacers' owner bought it and kept it alive.  Their reviews appear early in the publishing stream and known for their saucy commentary.  Kirkus is a mainstay for libraries and bookstores and the subscription is hefty.  A search for "Texas" at the main page brings up a variety of titles (see below) with initial nubbets of the books' reviews; to see the full review, you'll need to subscribe.  For example,

 Search Results
1 2 Next Last
Search Criteria:
Keyword(s): texas
Total Records: 20
Date Range: 02/03/2010 to 05/04/2010
Publication(s): Kirkus Reviews
Sorted By: Date in Descending order.
KEEPER
On a day when everything goes wrong, a little girl relies on the magic of the blue moon to turn things around. Since her mother swam away seven years ago, ten-year-old Keeper has lived happily with Signe on a remote slice of Texas coast, convinced
May 01, 2010 - Kirkus Reviews - Appelt, Kathi

THE FACULTY CLUB
Jeremy Davis thinks he has it made: Mere days after starting school, a high-ranking professor asks him to be his research assistant; a beautiful and brilliant classmate expresses interest in him; and he is courted by an exclusive club that
May 01, 2010 - Kirkus Reviews - Tobey, Danny

ON THE OUTSKIRTS OF NORMAL
Novelist and short-story writer Monroe (English/Texas State Univ.; Shambles, 2004, etc.) adopted Marie, an African-American baby, and raised her in the West Texas countryside where single female professors were an oddity and single white women with
Apr 15, 2010 - Kirkus Reviews - Monroe, Debra

BELLY UP
Twelve-year-old Teddy is a world traveler with a wildlife-photojournalist father and a mother who does gorilla research. Stateside, the family lives at FunJungle, the world's biggest and newest state-of-the-art zoo and theme park, the pet project of
Apr 15, 2010 - Kirkus Reviews - Gibbs, Stuart

RICHARD WRIGHT
This book, part of the publisher's series of short biographies of prominent African-Americans, isn't intended to deliver new information or surprising insights into the life and work of Richard Wright (1908–60). But given that the two major
Apr 01, 2010 - Kirkus Reviews - Wallach, Jennifer Jensen

LYNDON B. JOHNSON
Washington Monthly founder Peters (Five Days in Philadelphia: The Amazing "We Want Willkie!" Convention of 1940 and How It Freed FDR to Save the Western World, 2005, etc.) paints a mostly unpleasant portrait of a fiercely ambitious climber who
Apr 01, 2010 - Kirkus Reviews - Peters, Charles

WELCOME TO UTOPIA
The author starts slowly, but once she gets rid of the early-on clichs ("Roots are rare these days"), she emerges as a sensitive, candid and balanced observer of life in a town that is both everywhere and nowhere. Valby first tries to establish
Mar 15, 2010 - Kirkus Reviews - Valby, Karen

GALVESTON
Violence shadowed Roy Cady's childhood in East Texas. His alcoholic father fell to his death; his mother killed herself. She had worked for a bar owner and racketeer, and at 17 Roy started working for him too. Eventually he moved to New Orleans and
Mar 15, 2010 - Kirkus Reviews - Pizzolatto, Nic

HOLLY BLUES
Although traffic has been slow at her shops, China and her family—her husband Mike McQuaid, private eye and part-time college professor, his son Brian, and China's niece Caitlin—are making do. When Mike's former wife, Brian's mom Sally Strahorn,
Mar 15, 2010 - Kirkus Reviews - Albert, Susan Wittig

AT THE EDGE OF THE PRECIPICE
Although Illinois Senator Stephen A. Douglas actually pressed for the passing of the separate bills that effectively became the Compromise of 1850, it was Kentucky Senator Henry Clay who hammered the various proposals by Northerners and Southerners
Mar 01, 2010 - Kirkus Reviews - Remini, Robert V.

Texas Insitute of Letters Awards for 2009

Lon Tinkle Award for excellence during a career, Larry L. King 
The Jesse H. Jones Award for Best Work of Fiction of 2009 to Scott Blackwood for We Agreed to Meet Just Here.
Carr P. Collins Award for Best Book of Non-Fiction to Bryan Burrough for The Big Rich: The Rise and Fall of the Greatest Texas Oil Fortunes,
Most Significant Scholarly Book Award to Emilio Zamora for Claiming Rights and Righting Wrongs: Mexican Workers and Job Politics during World War II..
Steven Turner Award for Best First Novel to John Pipkin for Woods Burner.
Helen C. Smith Memorial Award for Best Book of Poetry to William Virgil Davis for Landscape and Journey.
The Kay Cattarulla Award for Best Short Story to the late Marjorie Kemper, "Discovered America," in Southwest Review, Fall 2009.
The O. Henry Award for Magazine Journalism to John Spong for "Holding Garmsir," in the Texas Monthly, issue January 2009.
The Fred Whitehead Award for Best Design of a Trade Book to Lindsay Starr for I Do Not Apologize for the Length of This Letter: The Mari Sandoz Letters on Native American Rights, 1940-1965,
The Austin Public Library Friends Foundation Award for Best Children's Book ($500) to Gwendolyn Zepeda for her Sunflowers/Girasoles.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Promised Lands - Elizabeth Crook

The "Random Book Review" begins its review with:
"So, I got the genre right this week. Honestly, though, I think I bit off a little more than I wanted to chew. Promised Lands is a novel written by Elizabeth Crook, and the darn thing took all week long to read because it's 509 pages in length. When I picked it out at the library, my husband gave me one of those wary looks and said, "You're not really going to read that, are you?" Oh, ye of little faith! Of course, I couldn't back down from the challenge in his tone, and needless to say, I made it through. And I'm glad, because it's actually a rather good read.
Promised Lands is a Western/Historical novel about the Texas Rebellion which started in 1835 and lasted until the spring of 1836. It was published in 1994 by Doubleday, a division of Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc. This novel has since been reissued by SMU Press as part of the Southwest Life and Letters series. Elizabeth Crook is the author of two other Western/Historical novels, one published before Promised Lands, and one published since, entitled The Night Journal, which won the 2007 Spur Award. She is a member of the Western Writers of America and The Texas Philosophical Society."

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Lone Star Lit 101

Cyndi   Cindy Hughes , Executive Director of the Writers League of Texas and founding director of the Texas Book Festival, provides an interesting list of Texas authors from the previous two decades in the "Dog Canyon."  She calls it "Lone Star Lit 101."  Includes literature, history,  a wide variety of literary forms: Bestsellers, Prize winners, Westerns, Children's books, Poets, Journalists, Texas Monthly, Dang Good Books, Mysteries, Inspirational, Grand Dames, Romances, Science Fiction, and Historians. About 70 authors in all.
 
She says "Unlike so-called Southern literature, which tends to focus on family, the history of the south, and even race and Gothic mystique, Texas lit doesn't have a distinctive Texas voice or typical subject matter. That is quite okay with me. Why should Texas writers echo one another and all be forced to write about Texas? I would argue that the fact that Texas writers crank out such an amazing variety of books makes our literary scene the most vibrant in the whole United States. Take that, Big Apple!"
 
Folks at the Parlor and Bookshelf suggest that the lack of a distinctive voice simply marks Texas as a large and diverse community where the wide open spaces also reflect the wide open minds of Texans.
 

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Houston Romance Writers review column - Thacker

   Teri Thacker, a romance writer herself, writes for the Examiner - book reviews of Houston area romance novelists whose settings often, but not always, are in Texas and Houston.  See more revealed at  http://www.examiner.com/x-3098-Houston-Romance-Novels-Examiner

2010 WesternWriters Spur Awards

The Western Writers Association has announced its current winners.  Some are Texana, including:

Robert Flynn's Echoes of Glory (published by Texas Christian University Press) won for Best Western Long Novel 

Nonfiction-Biography: David C. Humphrey, Peg Leg (Texas State Historical Association).
Nonfiction-Contemporary: Charles H. Harris III and Louis R. Sadler, The Secret War in El Paso: Mexican Revolutionary Intrigue, 1906-1920 (University of New Mexico Press).
Check the list for others at
http://www.westernwriters.org/spur_award_history.htm where the lists go back to 1959.

The convention's in Knoxville in June.

Fehrenbach and Conan the Barbarian

    Jim Cornelius at "The Cimmerian" writes about "T.R. Fehrenbach — Howardian historian."  The essay makes clear the relationship between Robert E. Howard's (i.e., Conan the Barbarian, etc) historical sweep and that of Howard's Texas homeland.  Folks at the Parlor would go so far as to say Conan was a Texan.

Read more at http://www.thecimmerian.com/?p=12454

Behold the People: R.C. Hickman's Photographs

Hickman_BeholdThePeople    Carla in the "81 Press" revives interrest in Behold the People: R.C. Hickman's Photographs of Black Dallas 1949-1961
She begins:

"This remarkable book reproduces over one hundred photographs taken by R.C. Hickman, a professional photographer whose exceptional work provides a fascinating visual record of life in Dallas's black community during the three decades following World War II.

Born in Mineola, Texas, in 1922, Hickman moved with his family to Dallas, where his father worked at the Baker Hotel as a cook. While in the army during World War II, Hickman acquired his knowledge of photography by watching a fellow soldier develop official pictures of military combat. He learned quickly and soon became an official army photographer."  Read more from Carla at

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Texas Institute of Letters Literary Awards Finalists for 2009

Darwin Payne sends this news relase from TIL http://www.texasinstituteofletters.org/TIL_2009_Finalists.pdf

Texas Institute of Letters Finalists

Named for 2009 Literary Awards

Finalists for the Texas Institute of letters awards for 2009 have been announced by William V. Davis, the organization's president.

Winners will be named at the Saturday evening, May 1, annual banquet at the Radisson Hotel in Austin. Judges made decisions in nine categories including fiction, first fiction, non-fiction, scholarly books, short stories, poetry, book design, magazine journalism, and children's books published during the year.

The institute was founded in 1936 to recognize literary achievement and to promote interest in Texas literature. Authors must have lived in Texas for at least two years or their works must relate to the state.

Jesse Jones Award for Fiction ($6,000): Scott Blackwood, We Agreed to Meet Just Here (New Issues Press); Oscar Casares, Amigoland (Little, Brown); and Cristina Henriquez, The World in Half (Penguin Group).

Carr P. Collins Award for Nonfiction ($5,000): Bryan Burrough, The Big Rich: The Rise and Fall of the Greatest Texas Oil Fortunes (Penguin Press); Tracy Daugherty, Hiding Man: A Biography of Donald Barthelme (St. Martin's Press); Steve Davis, J. Frank Dobie: A Liberated Mind (University of Texas Press); and Bill Sloan, The Darkest Summer: Pusan and Inchon 1950, The Battles That Saved South Korea—and the Marines—From Extinction (Simon & Schuster).

Steven Turner Award for First Fiction ($1,000): John Pipkin, Woodsburner (Nan A. Talese/Doubleday); Barbara Renaud Gonzalez, Golondrina, Why Did You Leave Me? (University of Texas Press); and Lowell Mick White, Long Time Ago Good (Slough Press).

TIL Award for Scholarly Book ($2,500): Mary Jo O'Rear, Storm Over the Bay: The People of Corpus Christi and Their Port (Gulf Coast Books); Gene B. Preuss, To Get a Better School System: One Hundred Years of Education Reform in Texas (Texas A&M Press); Emilio Zamora, Claiming Rights and Righting Wrongs in Texas: Mexican Workers and Job Politics During World War II (Texas A&M Press).

Helen C. Smith Memorial Award for Poetry ($1,200): Wendy Barker, Nothing Between Us (De Sol Press); William Virgil Davis, Landscape and Journey (Ivan R. Dee); James Hoggard, Triangles of Light: The Edward Hopper Poems (Wings Press); and John Poch, Dolls (Orchises Press).

O. Henry Award for Magazine Journalism ($1,000): Pamela Colloff, "Flesh and Blood," June 2009, Texas Monthly; Michael Hall, "The Judgment of Sharon Keller," August 2009, Texas Monthly; and John Spong, "Holding Garmsir," January 2009, Texas Monthly.

Austin Public Library Friends Foundation Award for Children's Book ($500): Benjamin Alire Saenz, The Dog Who Loved Tortillas (Cinco Puntos Press); Gwendolyn Zepeda, Sunflowers/ Girasoles (Pinada Books).

Kay Cattarulla Award for Short Story ($1,000): John Henry Irsfeld, "Drifting Too Far," New South, Spring/Summer 2009; Marjorie Kempner, "Discovering America," Southwest Review, Fall 2009; and Jaina Sanga, "The Good Price." Asia Literary Review, Autumn 2009.

Fred Whitehead Award for Design of a Trade Book ($750): Lindsay Starr, "I Do Not Apologize for the Length of This Letter": The Mari Sandoz Letters on Native American Rights, 1940-1965, (Texas Tech University Press); Lindsay Starr, Sex, Murder, and the Unwritten Law Courting Judicial Mayhem, Texas Style, (Texas Tech University Press); and Thomas Fink, The Man's Book (Little, Brown).

No awards were given in the Stanley Walker Award for Best Work of Newspaper Journalism Appearing in Newspaper or Sunday Supplement; the Friends of Austin Public Library Award for Best Young Adult Book, or the Soeurette Diehl Fraser Award for Best Translation of a Book. The Fraser Award is given every two years, and it will be awarded in 2011 for books published in 2009 or 2010."

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Adelsverein: The Gathering. By Celia Hayes

Adelsverein the Gathering - Book One of The Adelsverein Trilogy Adelsverein: The Gathering.  By Celia Hayes, Strider Nolan Media, Inc., 2008, 365 pages, http://www.celiahayes.com/  available at Amazon

 

Review by Dick Stanley, author of  Leaving The Alamo: Texas Stories After Vietnam, The Texas Scribbler at http://texasscribbler.com/  

 

"This is a dandy historical novel of the German settlement of the Hill Country which I recommend with caveats. I was familiar with the basic facts but learned a few things, such as the details of Baron Meuesbach's peace treaty with the Comanches. It was unique in Texas and more or less held until the last adult male of the murderous tribe was exterminated by the U.S. Army. I also didn't know how inept the pre-Meusebach Verein leaders were or that they employed their own uniformed soldiers to protect the settler families.

As a two-time indie author, I finally realized that I had yet to read someone else's indie book. I figured author Celia Hayes (the blogosphere and Milblogging's "Sgt. Mom") and her Adelsverein Texana trilogy was the best place to start. It was a good decision. This first book of the trilogy paints an epic in satisfying old-fashioned style that effectively lures a lover of such reads on and on.

Now the caveats: Hayes leaves almost nothing to the reader's imagination. That can grate on folks raised on movies and television. Unlike readers of the 19th century, we don't need exhaustive description of major and minor actors. I also could have done without all the adverbs. Seemingly every speech is characterized, rather than trusting to the context to convey the meaning. Nevertheless, the main characters are real and lovable and their tragedies and joys won my empathy and spurred my curiosity to find out what would happen to them next.

I was appalled at the typos and misspellings, by my count on 46 of the book's 365 pages. Surely, most of them could have been avoided, and a second edition to fix them is warranted. Still, Hayes is sufficiently talented and her story so well crafted that I will buy the second installment, "The Sowing." It concerns the Civil War years, during which the real German settlers had the ill-luck to be Unionists in a predominantly Confederate state. I want to find out how the Beckers and the Steinmetzs fare. Tragedy ahead, I expect. I'll be hoping, though, to find that the proofreading has improved."

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Texas Tough: The Rise of America's Prison Empire - Perkinson

Texas Tough: The Rise of America's Prison Empire  by Robert Perkinson is reviewed by Mary Foster in the Rochester, MN Post Bulletin.  It begins:

buy Texas Tough the book"As Robert Perkinson points out in "Texas Tough," his very readable history of U.S. prisons, locking up people is big business. America sends more people to prison per capita than any other country in the world, locking up about one out of every 100 people.
     Perkinson, a professor of American studies at the University of Hawaii, presents a compelling history of the prison system and its growth in the United States. He also shows that when it comes to prisons, no state does it better — or worse, depending on your outlook — than Texas.
     Surprisingly, prisons in which criminals are confined for long periods and are sometimes offered the opportunity to reform, are a relatively new invention. Although locking up people for crimes may be as old as civilization, Perkinson writes that prisons as we know them — "an institution that houses convicted lawbreakers for protracted, precisely measured periods of time — is a product only of the modern age," having begun toward the end of the 18th century."  Read more about Texas "leadership" at

Exploring the Edges of Texas - Davis

Available Fall 2009 from TAMU Press

Si Dunn in the Dallas News reviews Exploring the Edges of Texas By Walt and Isabel Davis.

The review begins: "

In 1955, Dallas Morning News columnist Frank X. Tolbert set off on an expedition that would span a greater distance than the length of the Amazon River. Many readers were enthralled by the tales that emerged each week as the writer and his 9-year-old son, Frank Tolbert Jr., circumnavigated the Texas border in a dusty Willis Jeep.

Tolbert's tales struck an especially deep chord with Walt Davis, who was then 13 and living in Oak Cliff. Young Walt vowed he would someday make his own trek through the counties that outline his home state.

A half-century later, Walt Davis and his wife, Isabel, finally had the time and resources to undertake "a four thousand mile-long, three-century-deep exploration of the edge of Texas." Family responsibilities and other realities, however, kept them from duplicating the late columnist's arduous excursion. Instead, they broke their journey into sections. They made multiple trips to different border areas, with Isabel keeping travel journals and research notes, Walt serving as "the expedition artist," and both writing about their adventures and observations."  Read more at

http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/ent/stories/DN-bk_edgesoftexas_0314gd.ART.State.Bulldog.49da97a.html

See also http://www.exploringtheedgesoftexas.com/

Bob Wills Visits Rolling Stone

Photo

   
Well, not exactly.  But the once radical Rolling Stone rock music magazine has certainly grownup while I stepped away, and apparently have tracked Bob for a while..  There's a recent review of Tiffany Transcriptions from Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys.  The Transcriptions are actually a 10 disk set.  Stoners see their roots in Junior Barnard's guitar.  Yep, blame it on Junior (it's always the young ones).
 
And to top it all off, the RS website has page on Bob and the Boys, with a directory of performers and a very long discography of RS notices and links and, reviews etc. back to the 1950's
There's an option to audio
plus a link to Bob's website at http://www.texasplayboys.net/
 
Photo
 

Monday, March 22, 2010

Just Visitin' Old Texas Jails - Hall

   Just Visitin' Old Texas Jails.  By Joan Upton Hall.  Abilene:  State House Press, dist. by TAMU Consortium, 2007.  200 pages, 102 b&w photos, 1 map,  glossary, 6x9 paperback,   ISBN  978-1-933337-14-2   $16.95 

http://www.tamu.edu/upress/    http://www.joanuptonhall.com

 

Ed Blackburn, the late, retired, newspaperman, would be enjoying Just Visitin, by Joan Upton Hall, the retired English teacher.  I know I do.  They've both been captivated, if not incarcerated, by our jails.

Her volume is chock-full of about 50 jails across the state which can be visited by tourists especially because they've been converted to modern use by local historical societies, art galleries, jail history fans, bed and breakfast conversions, commercial use, office use, and yes, friends and neighbors, even a residence.  Some figure a one among several structures at the same site.   Arranged alphabetically by town from Albany to Wharton, Hall focuses on about 50 small town calabooses, mostly county sponsored.  One or more photo introduces each entry with a short narrative of colorful stories and technical notes that can continue for up to a fifth page. Many have been tagged by the National Register and Texas state historical markers.

A Texas state outline map carries symbols and makes your plans for visiting easier.  

The oldest jail included is the 1854 Karnes County first jail in Helena.  Hellions in the area included a two-man duel in which the "men, tied together by one arm each, battled with short-bladed knives too short to strike to strike a vital organ, until one or both of them bled to death."  Hall's English teacher background must have included graphic descriptive skills.

Before you escape through the book's back door, you'll find several other categories: "Just Waiting" for the structures not open to the public, "Just Pretending" for Selma's Hooter's Bar & Grill, "Jail Residence" for the Benjamin hoosegow, and "Just Abandoned" for, well, derelicts.  The following short glossary is technical about construction, locking systems and mechanisms such as the "squint box."

Pick up a pass, and squint at the book.  The chapterlettes are alluring.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Lunar Braceros - Sanchez and Pita

Lunar Braceros 2125-2148    Lunar Braceros, 2125-2148.  A novella by Rosaura Sanchez and Beatrice Pita.  National City, Califas:  Calaca Press, 2009.  120 pages, paperback, ISBN 978-0-9843359-0-9, $15

http://www.calacapress.com  http://myspace.com/calacalanda

    Calaca provides this description:  "A futuristic sci-fi novella from the perspective of the underdog by Rosaura S├ínchez and Beatrice Pita.  Featuring cover art and illustrations by San Diego, Califas artist Mario A. Chacon.  Twenty-second century Cholos living on Cali-Texas Reservations have few options.  One of them is signing up as Moon Tecos, technicians disposing of Earth's waste on Lunar sites.  After discovering that their Teco contracts are one-way tickets, the Lunar Braceros are forced to take matters into their own hands."

    Authors Sanchez and Pita are both college professors; Sanchez having gotten her Ph.D. from UT, thereby accounting for some of the very light Texas connection in the plot which prefers the West Coast.

The writing follows in the fragmentary tradition with changing type font to accent the changing persons' perspective.  Largely the pieces are "letters" to Pedro, a young son, still on earth and subject to the capitalist hegemony that rules the Earth through the New Imperial Order.  Shifting eco-political boundaries have created Cali-Texas which also includes Northern Mexico, Alaska, and Hawaii.  To some readers, the novella may evoke some post-modernist forms.

       It's a rather creative, if difficult to follow, plot which shifts from California to the Moon to sites in Mexico and South American locales.  Earth and the Moon are controlled by giant conglomerates which have corralled the poor into Reservations to serve as a quasi-slave labor force for the vast human population.  The Moon serves as a gigantic waste dump for radioactive material and for mining.  At the volume's conclusion, Pedro is grown and beset with the same problems as his forebearers – how to overthrow the capitalists and set up a cooperative, utopian society.    Towards the end, things get so bad that the revenge emerges as an acceptable option to motivate readers. Much of the narrative is sci-fi technical narrative of life on the Moon where a revolt ignites.

    Texas figures very little in frequency and content.  Texas serves as a birthplace for one principal.   Texas and the Southwest are admired for their spaciousness and openness to mobility.  Central Texas is admired because Central Texas is admirable.  Houston seems to be a hated center of control, especially the space program, and is to be avoided at all costs, even to preferring Tierra del Fuego.

    Even so, Lunar Braceros is refreshing for its sweep of terrain and politics and philosophy.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Shimmer - David Morrell

Book Cover    The Cuckleburr brings a review of The Shimmer by David Morrell.  The comments begin:
"The Shimmer is an engrossing and suspense packed thriller from the pen of Rambo creator, David Morrell. Set in and around the fictional Rostov, Texas, The Shimmer's about mysterious lights in the sky near the small town. Are they so much more than they appear to be or just some geological anomaly as some think? An out of town policeman's search to discover their source unveils centuries old sightings, hidden government projects and that his marriage is suddenly in turmoil.  Read more at
A Fantasic Fiction review begins: "When a high-speed chase goes terribly wrong, Santa Fe police officer Dan Page watches in horror as a car and gas tanker explode into flames. Torn with guilt that he may be responsible, Page returns home to discover that his wife, Tori, has disappeared.  //  Frantic, Page follows her trail to Rostov, a remote town in Texas ...."  Read more at
Tell your friends in Marfa about this one.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Beyond the Alamo - Raul Ramos

        Raul Ramos makes a guest posting on the University of North Carolina Press blog regarding his Beyond the Alamo: Forging Mexican Ethnicity in San Antonio, 1821-1861. 
Ramos begins:   "This Saturday marks the anniversary of the Battle of the Alamo in 1836, the battle that ended the 13-day siege on the fort by the Mexican Army.  The date carries added meaning this year as the Texas State Board of Education decides on the social studies standards affecting the education of the state's public school children.  Debates over the standards have garnered national attention especially since they impact how textbooks will be written for the nation's largest market.  It was the subject of a recent New York Times Magazine cover story.  When it comes to Texas history, few if any events carry the emotional weight of the Alamo.  The governor even invokes the memory of Texas Independence to score political points with the anti-Washington crowd."  Read more at
http://uncpressblog.com/2010/03/05/politics-of-texas-history/

Friday, March 5, 2010

Falling in a Circle - a Collaborative Texas Novella

Mike Kearby is a skilled Texas author with a record of writing good books for the YA market.  He also coordinates The Collaborative Novel project involving Texas high school students from ten schools.  The project eventually produces a novel year year.  This year they offer a free e-book version of the work to any junior high, middle school, or high school librarian who requests one.
 
The student writers also visually designed the book as well as contributed the plot and writing.  Real-life issues come into focus.  "This year's project speaks of students with disabilities. One of this year's writer, Marcus Parks, is disabled and he wrote the afterword for the book."
 
If your junior, middle school, or high school library would like to receive a complimentary copy of the 50 page book, Falling in a Circle, e-mail Mike at - kearb@hughes.net  and he will e-mail a PDF. version back to you. The file size is 278 kb
Kearby summarizes the volume as "A collaborative effort by ten Texas high schools, Falling in a Circle explores the cruelty often passed along to those among us with physical disabilities. The novella provides its audience with a fascinating glimpse into one character's emotional pain, and internal conflict. Will Kat learn from her past and cope with her future? Or will she continue Falling in a Circle?"
 
The back cover blurb for the book is below:
"Kat Morelli, a student at Cedar Lake High School , gains attention from her peers by making fun of other students …especially those who are handicapped or disabled. Before her senior year, Kat receives a devastating diagnosis from her doctor. She has bone cancer. The cancer is so widespread that doctors must to remove part of her lower leg, leaving Kat to endure the same cruel jokes she once delivered thoughtlessly on her classmates."
This is not the same 2006  Noah's Ride: A Collaborative Novelby Phyllis Allen, Judy Alter, Mike Blackman, Mike Cochran, Jeff Guinn, Mary Dittoe Kelly, Elmer Kelton, James Ward Lee, James Reasoner and Mary Rogers.

  See Mike at http://www.mikekearby.com

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Rails Around Houston - Douglas Weiskopf

Rails around Houston      Rails Around Houston.  By Douglas L. Weiskopf.  Charleston, SC:  Arcadia Publishing, 2009.  paperback, many photos, 128 pages, ISBN 9780738558844, the ticket's only $21.99, round trip, front to back.  All aboard!
While I was the librarian in the Texas Room of the Houston Public Library, we'd get questions about railroads.  My first response was "Where's Doug?"  He'd be nearby as one of the senior reference staff, and the patron's question would go to Doug because he KNEW railroads.  I'd tell him, "You oughta write a book."  Well, yes, now you have Doug's Rails Around Houston,a wonderfully annotated pictorial issue, part of Arcadia's series "Images of Rail." 
Weiskopf also serves as the chapter historian of the Gulf Coast Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society.  Last week he roped me into visiting one of the local conventions of railroad modellings, and I have seen the light - the light coming around the bend of those marvelous set-ups. 
But Doug's focus is on the real stuff.  He can be caught browsing and mulling over local train yards.  He's even inserted an 1888 drawing (Courtesy Temple Railroad and Heritage Museum) of Houston's Southern Pacific train yard in the Rails Around Houston.  Houston's train yards are fundamental to the area's history.  In fact as the frontispiece pictorial poster shows Houston's slogan was once "Houston:  Where Seventeen Railroads Meet the Sea."
The photos come from several sources, Doug, Houston's HMRC, George Werner's private Collection (George was our local tutor on railroading), Tom Marsh's Collection, the Temple Museum, and elsewhere.
Weiskopf's introductions and annotations genuinely boost the readers' grasp of the images; he begins with charterings during the Republic of Texas and then the
The strong point of the images is certainly the engines and cars, Weiskopf includes a good diversity of passenger interiors, portraits of potentates, bridges, stations and sheds, alluring travel graphics of the early period, and even the old Sunset Hospital.  And, oh my goodness, he's included photos of the North Shore Interurban AND Houston's 1955 prototype, overhead, monorail.
What's my favorite? Well, on page 43 you'll find the aerial shot of Edgewood Yard in its glorious splay of maybe 50 tracks.  This capillary action on the ground recalls the old Marshall, Texas yard over and through which I walked countless times in my youth.  Doug, thanks for Rails Around Houston and the memories.  Oh, and give me a call; a friend has asked me a question that's right down your tracks?

Saturday, February 27, 2010

No Mexicans, Women, or Dogs Allowed - Orozco

The Feminist Review comments on Cynthia Orozco's new volume: 
The review begins:  "So often, when studying the history of civil rights in the United States in school, the curriculum concentrates on the struggles faced by African Americans and white women. The plights of other minority groups though, such as Asian Americans or Hispanic Americans, are often omitted from the textbooks. In those rare instances when these other groups are mentioned, their histories are condensed into a paragraph or side note. Cynthia E. Orozco attempts to shed some light on one of these ignored civil rights movements in her book, No Mexicans, Women, or Dogs Allowed. Her chronicle is a fascinating exploration at an overlooked chapter of American history." 
Now, everyone's allowed to read more about it at

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Valleysong - Texas Rio Writers

A Book Hunter's Journal provides a review of VALLEYSONG: An Anthology Echoing the Rhythm and Cadence of Life in the Rio Grande Valley by the Texas Rio Writers.   The review begins with a colorful title:

Of Pollitos, Life, Swimming Holes & H.E.B.: The Echos of the Rio Grande Valley

     "The most important thing in any culture is stories, a history. Folklore that is passed from father to son across generations are essential. I don't know where I would be had it not been for the "camp fire" stories from my  grandfather, or those moralistic tales told by my grandmother. Valleysong is a collection of such stories, essays that remember the past of looking toward the future. 

And that is where my crux begins. How can both appreciate and frown upon a book?"  Read more of the review at