Attica Locke’s critically acclaimed 2009 debut novel, Black Water Rising, was set in her hometown of Houston and featured a down-on-his-luck lawyer protagonist named Jay Porter, who in many ways was inspired by her father, Gene Locke, the former city attorney of Houston. The sequel, Pleasantville, has just come out, though the final book in what she expects will be a trilogy will likely have to wait a while.
The Gay Place, Billy Lee Brammer
An acute portrait of the capital city’s politics and social mores, circa the fifties.
The Duchess of Palms, Nadine Eckhardt
The “answer record” to The Gay Place—by Brammer’s ex-wife.
Waterloo, Karen Olsson
Politics, journalists, slackers—pretty much The Gay Place for the twenty-first century.
Empire of Cotton: A Global History (Alfred A. Knopf), by Harvard professor Sven Beckert, is cut from the same cloth as last year’s surprise publishing sensation, French economist Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-first Century. Both books are groundbreaking economic histories that convincingly demonstrate how capitalism’s “invisible hand” has too often meant the back of the hand for countless workers and, more recently, an endangered middle class.
Cisneros wasn’t born in Texas, but her rendering of the rasquache Tex-Mex vernacular is pitch-perfect in this short-story collection, which appeared just seven years after she arrived in San Antonio. Anchored in Mexico and Texas, these stories read like lapidary poems, telling of romance, revenge, carnal and spiritual longing, and whimsy.