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

Number One With a Bullet

Miranda Lambert likes guns, but there’s more to her than that, just as the sultry pouts on her album covers don’t tell the whole story of an East Texas girl who always wanted to be Merle Haggard.

Rodney Schott

Taxidermist.

The Last Resort

After telecommunications tycoon Steve Smith bought the Big Bend town of Lajitas on a whim for $4.25 million, he spent perhaps $100 million more developing what was going to be a five-star, world-class getaway. The desert, however, had other ideas.

Untitled Mike Flynt Project

A veteran Hollywood screenwriter couldn’t have come up with a better narrative arc: Seeking redemption, 59-year-old reenrolls at university he was once asked to leave, tries out for football team, makes it, becomes one of oldest-ever players in NCAA history. Or at least that’s how the hero wants it to be told. The full story may not be quite so neat and tidy, but . . . aw, hell, roll cameras anyway!

You’re Rick Noriega. Do You Approve This Message?

Since the Republicans took over Texas, every plausible Democratic candidate for high statewide office has been the subject of an obligatory profile in Texas Monthly. Here’s yours—only it’s a bit different. It’s a memo containing loads of free advice—the kind you can afford—on how you can beat John Cornyn.

Dude!

Yes, yes, new baby and new movie— but what Matthew McConaughey really wants to talk about is the cushion of the flip-flop, the skooching of hoodie sleeves, the proper thickness of koozies, and his coming career as the arbiter of redneck-Buddha chic.

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.

Working on a Presidential Campaign

Kenny Thompson on planning Obama’s campaign events.

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.

Charlie Wilson’s War Plan

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

Making The Scene

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

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.

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.

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