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.

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,  available at Amazon


Review by Dick Stanley, author of  Leaving The Alamo: Texas Stories After Vietnam, The Texas Scribbler at  


"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

See also

Bob Wills Visits Rolling Stone


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

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


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

    Calaca provides this description:  "A futuristic sci-fi novella from the perspective of the underdog by Rosaura Sánchez 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

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 -  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

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?