John Spong

Senior editor John Spong holds a bachelor’ degree in history and a J.D. from the University of Texas at Austin. In 1997, after a brief yet dramatically unfulfilling stint as a civil litigator in Austin, he joined Texas Monthly as a fact-checker. He became a staff writer in 2002. Spong was nominated for a National Magazine Award in 2010 for his story celebrating Texas dance halls, “Step Right Up” and has twice won the Texas Institute of Letters’ O. Henry Award for Magazine Journalism—for “The Good Book and the Bad Book,” about a censorship battle at a private school in Austin, and for “Holding Garmsir,” about a month he spent with a platoon of U.S. Marines fighting in Afghanistan. He is the author of A Book on the Making of Lonesome Dove (University of Texas Press, 2012), and his stories have been collected in Best Food Writing 2012 (Da Capo Press, 2012), the Best American Sportswriting 2009 (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009), Literary Austin (TCU Press, 2007), and Rio Grande (University of Texas Press, 2004). In 2005 the City and Regional Magazine Association named Spong its national writer of the year. He has served on the board of the Texas Book Festival since 2008 and lived in Austin since 1971.

Stories

Big State, Small Screen

Is Friday Night Lights the best TV show ever made about Texas? Or just the first one (sorry, J.R.! Sorry, Hank!) that’s tried so hard to get the details right?

On the Road—Westbound and Down

Most vacations in Texas mean filling up the gas tank and logging long hours on the highway. Yet whether it’s a classic buddy trip or a full-blown family vacation, the charms of the open road remain. May it always be so.

True West

Twenty-five years ago, Larry McMurtry published a novel called Lonesome Dove—and Texas hasn’t looked the same since. Listen in as more than thirty writers, critics, producers, and actors, from Peter Bogdonavich and Dave Hickey to Tommy Lee Jones, Robert Duvall, and Anjelica Huston, tell the stories behind the book (and the miniseries) that changed the way we see the West.

Hook’d

The Longhorns may have lost the BCS National Championship on the hallowed field of the Rose Bowl, but they gained something almost as important: a long-lost fan.

Step Right Up

Press your jeans, pull on your boots, shine up your buckle, and come along on this two-stepping tour of classic country dance halls, from Tom Sefcik Hall, in Seaton, to Club Westerner, in Victoria.

From the Hip

Fun Fun Fun Fest and its post-punk indie sound.

The End of The Affair

Everyone was shocked when San Angelo’s hugely popular mayor suddenly left town with his gay lover. Everyone, that is, except the citizens of San Angelo.

Pitch Perfect

What’s the secret to writing a great country song? Which comes first, music or lyrics? Looking to answer these and other questions, we gathered a group of singer-songwriters—Guy Clark, Robert Earl Keen, Sonny Throckmorton, Patty Griffin, and Jack Ingram—set out a couple guitars, and let the tape roll.

Ted or Alive

In the late seventies, Ted Nugent (a.k.a. “the Nuge” or “Uncle Ted”) had the country’s biggest hard-rock touring act—a wild-ass blend of in-your-face energy, obscene language, and a well-placed loincloth. Now he’s the country’s biggest gun rights advocate—and all that’s changed is the loincloth.

Making The Scene

Location: Austin What You’ll Need: Ironic T-shirt, bed head

Charlie Wilson’s War Plan

The legendary congressman talks about Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the future of the Middle East.

Second Street District, Austin.

Second Street District, Austin.

Waiting for Matty Pickles to Come Out

Spoon front man Britt Daniel, taking his sweet time on a new album.

Holding Garmsir

Fighting the Taliban, the 130-degree heat, the boredom, the homesickness, and the weight of history with the Marines of Mustang Platoon in Afghanistan.

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