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

The Texas Bookshelf is different from the The Texas Parlor, . 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 which specialized on books and such things for the youngest to the teenagers.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Come Rain, Come Shine - Bedell

 Come Rain, Come Shine. By Jack B. Bedell.  Huntsville:  Texas Review Press, 2006.  59 pages, 5 ½ x 8 ½ , ISBN 1-881515-86-9 $16.00 (cloth and jacket);  ISBN 1-881515-87-6  $12.00 (paper)

Bedell teaches English at Southeastern Louisiana University, where he edits Louisiana Literature and directs the Louisiana Literature Press.  The volume reflects the Cajun exotic and mysterious world of French patois, frogs, turtles, herons, handfishing, batfishing, Jean Lafite and dancing at Fred's.  Yet the lines are quite approachable by all. There are lines we all wish to breathe, as in "L'avalasse," "Inside, my wife, and boys draw close / and breathe with such peace the house almost glows."  And other lines we all fear, as in "Dear Heron," "It startles me to find it pinned to barbed wire / on the edge of some pasture

Myths of Electricity - Meaux

The Texas Review Press, over at Sam Houston State University, runs a pretty good line of books, not all of which are Texas themed.  Here are two tinged with Louisiana.  Their distribution is through the TAMU Consortium


 Myths of Electricity.  By Kevin Meaux. Huntsville:  Texas Review Press, 2005.  40 pp. 5 1/2x8 ½,  paper, ISBN 1-881515-73-7   $8.95


Meaux, born and educated in the Pelican State, took the occasion to cross the Sabine and to teach at Lamar University in Beaumont.   This volume, like Come Rain, dwells on the rural nature and person.  The poet writes with respect and a playful, exploratory mind.  He mixes for you here snakes, ghosts, abandonment, magic, omens, prayers, and immortality.  Some lines could be made in East Texas, as in "On visiting a Childhood Home," "As always, the summer unreels into wisteria / and dense clumps of honeysuckle, enthralling the backyard bees."  And some lines could end anywhere, as in "Hymn for Abandoned Things," "And whatever's neglected / will inherit the hushed corners of the kingdom, / as winds alone compose the low hymns / for all that's tarnished and born again among the weeds."

Three Perfect Men - Palfrey

   Three Perfect Men.  By Evelyn Palfrey.  Austin:  Moon Child Books, 1996, 4th printing, 2004.  333 pages, trade paperback, ISBN 0-9654190-0-2, $12.95. 


Evelyn Palfrey, a successful novelist of Texarkana, writes as a middle-aged, ahem, "marvelously mature," observer of East Texas.  Angela, a lawyer/analyst, has been done wrong by a man in Houston.  Her best friends, Eleanor, an arch feminist/publisher and Sondra, a Judge and mother, swoop her off in the RV to a secluded lake for some days of quiet RR&R.  But there are at least three men, Jones, Ike, and Donnell, there!  But are they really perfect?  But who cares, really?

A murder victim washes ashore.  The usually self-contained women scream, shoot at the neighbors, drop lures and reject the men's lines and bobbers. The ensuing mystery provides a plot-line of small town politics and drug-trade, with twists and surprises, while the novelist performs the more intriguing task of revealing each of the sextet's personages, each with a secret wound only a true love can heal.

Three Perfect is the first of a trilogy of three college roommates, 25 years later.  The next two are The Price of Passion, and Dangerous Dilemmas via Simon & Schuster.  Palfrey's contribution to East Texana fiction draw from her nativity, SMU and UT Law School education, and, one presumes, some natural feminine wiles acquired by life.  Readers beyond the Pine Pale will enjoy her tales representing a fuller range of life in the trees in this pluralist social ménage.


German Settlement of the Hill Country - Morgenthaler







    The German Settlement of the Texas Hill Country.  By Jefferson Morgenthaler.  Boerne:  Mockingbird Books, 2007. 214 pages, notes, bibliography, index, softbound, 6" x 9", ISBN 978-1-932801-09-5 $18.95


A quick survey of the volume may lead the awkward reader to some conclusions with some inaccuracy.  For instance, as the Holy Roman Empire dissipated and left the Germans feeling inadequate, the French revolted with all those weird ideas of freedom, leaving the German wishing for enlightened despots.  They found one named Sam Houston who offered them fishing rights on the upper Llano River. 

So several hundred Germans invaded at Matagorda Bay, drove up the Guadalupe River, tried to settle in at the designated locale, found they'd been "baited" with good advertising to a harsh land with loud neighbors (the Comanche just wouldn't abide by the neighborhood association's deed restrictions), "switched" to preferred locales, established New Braunfels, Fredericksburg, Boerne, Sisterdale, and Comfort, did rather well, even with a few Freethinkers along the way, found themselves beset by ruffians who wished to force acceptance of slavery and rebellion against the Union, got into a serious dust-up on the Nueces followed by a massacre, emerged from the scrapes, did rather well, and now populate the Texas Hill Country, finding freedom, education, democracy, and assimilation into Texan culture quite okay, thank you.

A calmer survey reveals Morgenthaler has strung together readable chapters of the 1840s-1860's successful colonization lead by a few German aristocrats via their Adelsverein organization, and their usually more common Germans.  Morgenthaler goes beyond the usual stories of Prince Carl of Solms-Braunfels, Fredinand Roemer, John Musenbach, and Henry Fisher.  He gets under the Fachwerk housing, reads the Neu-Braunfelser Zeitung, and mixes with the Fortiers, the Forty-eighters, and Fourierists.

Folks will find many tales of their early families tucked into the story as evidence.


Lillie Davenport - Midkiff

 Book 1   Lillie Davenport:  Pioneer Mother.  By Mary Lou Midkiff, with a foreword by Elmer Kelton.  Midland:  Oleo Publishing, 2008.  320 pages, endpaper maps, many photos, hardback with jacket, $29.95    ISBN-10: 0976395517  ISBN-13: 978-0976395515


If Elmer Kelton likes it, well, it's pretty good read.  This grassroots family story is about Lillie (1877-1972), a Georgian woman in Indian Territory who in 1896 marries a cowboy Oscar Midkiff.  Yes, they had cowboys there.  They moved to south of Midland, and she raised twelve children out there on the plains, and as needed, she did it all, including shooting antelope from sidesaddle. 

Life for the Davenports was sparse because that's the way it was and still is around Midland.  Family readers will enjoy the many asides and recollections of the Davenport children and grandchildren.   And the story has a fine final plot line – after WWII oil was discovered on the Davenport land.   The volume has what its all family members will enjoy, about 200 photos, almost a hundred pages of genealogy, and a stunning index, mostly personal names.  A good sturdy volume of a good sturdy family.

The author knows some about the Midkiff's because she earlier wrote Midkiff: A Texas Family, Town, and Way of Life which covers much of the Midkiff couple's early life.


Texas Eccentrics - Kuhn

       Texas Eccentrics.  By John Kuhn. Art by Dennis Menese.  Dallas:  Atriad, 2008.  272 pages, paperback, copious illustrations, $19.95 ISBN: 1-933177-12-8


John Kuhn is a founding co-editor of Fear and Trembling Magazine.  His book's funny, quirky.  Demonstrate how easily you can transition from your urbane, sedate lifestyle.  Spruce up your conversation with references to over 100 eccentric Texans.  And the categories are "Bizarre Businesspeople" with Jeff Bezos, Howard Hughes, H.L. Hunt, etc., "Peculiar Politicians" with Judge Roy Bean, Kinky Friedman, Ron Paul, etc., "Strange Sports Figures" with Mark Cuban, George Foreman, Dennis Rodman, etc., "Atypical Artists" with Gatemouth Brown, Janis Joplin, Anna Nichol Smith, etc., and "Other Oddballs" with Boxcar Willie, Wrong Way Corrigan, Carlos Esparza, Wolfman Jack, etc.  And more you don't know, unless you're already kinda strange.

Or get the book for the kids, especially the normal kids.  Each quick bio is headed by notes on the person's name, life dates, Texas connection, occupation, claim to weirdness, and the person's place in the Tex-centricity scale.  Kuhn's volume is an enjoyable light and easy read.  Get one for the neighbors; yes, you know which ones!

See some of Kuhn's other publications at

Sons of the Republic -Thompson / Erickson

The Sons of the Republic of Texas.  Paducah, Kentucky: Turner Publishing, co-published by Mark Thompson.  2001.  190 pages, 8 ½ x 11, hardback, indexed by personal name.  ISBN:  1-56311-603-0, Price: $54.95


Joe Erickson provides the introductory essay on colonial history.   Thereafter, a documented history on the Sons follows;  along with the smaller group, the Knights of the Order of San Jacinto, with a directory of those members of 1941 onward.  The bulk of the volume is a biographical directory of many, about 300, members of the SRT, old and new.  These entries are enriched with photos of portraits, group shots, maps, headstones, historical markers, and homesteads.  The biographies range from full pages to short memorial statements, including Robert Wynn Blanton (among the several cited Blanton Sons) who after World War II died, while still a young man and a sophomore student at SMU, of drowning in Galveston in 1949.  If you have wondered who sired the Texas American colonial population, here is your guide.

Tyler - Reed

Tyler    Tyler: Images of America.  By Robert E. Reed, Jr. Charleston, SC.: Arcadia Publishing, 2008. 128 pages, 6 ½ x 9, many b&w photos. ISBN 0738548413  $19.99 


Robert Reed has lived in the Piney Woods of Tyler for a life-time and took his education at Tyler Junior College and UT-Tyler.  He had a large collection of local, historical images and memorabilia and is a member of the Cotton Belt Historical Society and the Smith County Historical Society which strongly added material to the volume.  Tyler, of course, is the "Rose Capital of America" and the city's history goes way back.

This pictorial book with its keen captioning takes the reader's eye on a journey from the 1850's to the 1960's. 

The cover shows a parade scene with a float of eight Tyler beauties and a U.S. marine marching along side, just in front of the Perry Brothers store.  Within you find the courthouse scenes, portraits of the famous and common, group scenes, front and interior domestic shots, store and restaurant scenes, wagons crowding the streets, church buildings and congregations congregated for the camera, school scenes, trains, soldiers and football players, a flow of historical buildings (standing and gone), and landscapes, including the dam site, cotton fields, fruit trees and roses.  A few images depict the African Tyler population, e.g., in the fields, in a library, and four fellows in their 1955 police uniforms. 

The captions are instructive in their approximate 50 word limit.  Folks in Marshall just ought to envious and put together a volume of their own using the Arcadia formula.  A couple of dozen other cities and towns already have


True West - Barson

 True West cover

    True West: An Illustrated Guide to the Heyday of the Western.  By Michael Barson.  Foreword by Robert B. Parker.  Fort Worth: Texas Christian University, dist. By TAMU Consortium, 2008.  very stiff paper cover with folded back flaps, 174 pages, 8 ½ x 11, hundreds of colored illustrations, ISBN 978-0-87565-379-2.  $29.95   


Golly! Look at this!  I sure did.  The first two times through the book I hardly read a single line of the text.  The many movie posters, advertisements, book jackets, images of paraphernalia, comic book shots, theatrical playbills, Golden Book imagery, glamour shots, sheet music covers and the like just lure this viewer from page to page like I was a young boy back in Marshall exploring my imaginary family history.  Barson, popular culture historian, shares his Western fodder palaver in glorious style.

It's not just Gene Autry, Dale Evans, Trigger, the Lone Ranger, Cisco, and Hoppy.  Barson goes back to Tom Mix, William Desmond, Errol Flynn, Randolph Scott, and the rest of the gang.

The text includes summaries of maybe 200 films and so forth, with industry history.  Even John Wayne went through dry spell before his ascension to the throne. Surely you remember The Magnificent Seven came from the Japanese Seven Samurai.  And that Hud came from McMurtry's first novel, Horseman, Pass By.  Barson's essay on the once Western dominance of the small screen will leave any reader amazed.

Barson does miss reference to some main points.  My father almost certainly was a consultant to the development of the character Ward Bond in the television show, Wagon Train, or so it seemed to me.  Nor does he recount how each week at the opening scene of the televised Gunsmoke, young boys across the nation stood in the middle of the room, drew their gun against Matt Dillion, and crumpled to the floor, taken down in the showdown with the law.  But forgive Barson such, and get this book before the Red River dries up or Dimitri Tiomkin's music fades behind the next stampede.


Saturday, May 2, 2009

Rebeca Gomez Galindo Interview by the Dark Phantom

The Dark Phanton begins the commentary with "
I have the greatest pleasure of introducing you today to Rebeca Gomez Galindo, author of the short story collection, Habitantes de mi tiempo (Inhabitants Of My Time). Rebeca is a former vice-president 01of The Society of Hispanic and Latino Writers of San Antonio and a member of The Writer's League of Texas. Currently, she's working on a romantic suspense novel in English.
Thanks for being here today, Rebeca. Why don't you start by telling us a little about your collection of surreal short stories, Habitantes de mi tiempo."

Sylvia Dickey Smith Interview - Helen Ginger

Straight from Hel,  Ginger begins her interview with Sylvia Smith by commenting, "Today, we welcome best-selling author, Sylvia Dickey Smith. She writes the Sidra Smart mystery series. Her series is set in Southeast Texas in the area where Sylvia herself grew up. That area of Texas is unique in its mix of people, from Cajuns to Dutch descendants to the Scots-Irish. As you might guess, her books are filled with lively characters and the area itself becomes something of a character."
Read more about Smith

Reviews in Blogger News Network

The Blogger News Network during April included about 8 book reviews on Texas books.