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Some words are worth a thousand pictures; such is the case with the image-rich writing of Colum McCann, whose first novel, Songdogs (Metropolitan Books, $22.50), has won praise from both The New Yorker and the New York Times. A native of Ireland, the 31-year-old credits Texas with jump-starting his career. Arriving in the United States in 1986 for a cross-country bike tour, he ended up here—even though, he notes, “people along the way had warned me about Texas.” After a stint in Brenham teaching wilderness survival to juvenile offenders, he spent two years at the University of Texas at Austin, where he finished his bachelor’s in English and history. His life shifted gears after a short story that had appeared in Analecta, the UT literary magazine, was included in Britain’s Best Short Stories of 1993. Already Songdogs, a stereopticon of a novel about fishing, photography, and the seesawing love of father and son, has been optioned by the filmmaker Peter Newman, who co-produced last year’s independent hit Smoke, and McCann—now living in New York City—is working on the screenplay as well as a second novel. “I’m incredibly flattered,” he says of all the hoopla. “But I’m also a wee bit scared.”