Ed Gabel and Joe Zeff, Mimi Swartz, and Bill Minutaglio.

Ed Gabel and Joe Zeff

Ed Gabel and Joe Zeff

That is not Bonfire on this month’s cover. Instead, it’s an idealized version of the iconic Aggie tradition, thanks to the creative minds of Ed Gabel and Joe Zeff, of New York’s Splashlight studios. “Blueprints weren’t available online,” says Zeff, who met Gabel when they worked together in the graphics department at Time magazine. “So we made screen captures from a History Channel documentary and went from there.” That involved intensive 3-D modeling and precise digital photography to get the most realistic effect. “It was our intent to be as accurate as possible,” he says.

Mimi Swartz

Mimi Swartz

In a sense, we’re witnessing the sequel to Giant,” writes executive editor Mimi Swartz in “ Below the Surface ”. Here the O’Connor ranching family fills in for the Benedicts; Exxon­Mobil plays the part of Jett Rink. At issue is a titanic legal battle between the two over the plugging of wells on the famed Mary Ellen O’Connor lease, yet in the end, the story is about much more than that. “It’s about identity,” says Swartz. “It’s about who we are—not who we like to think we are.”

Bill Minutaglio

Bill Minutaglio

Veteran journalist Bill Minutag­lio knows Texas politics. He has written well-received books about George W. Bush and Alberto Gonzales. Now he has turned his attention to the other end of the political spectrum in Molly Ivins: A Rebel Life , which he co-wrote with W. Michael Smith (excerpted in “ Newspaper Days ”). “Bush wasn’t telling me to back off, as he did in a private letter, and I wasn’t getting stonewalled by Gonzales’ staff at the Justice Department,” says Minutaglio, who is now a journalism professor at the University of Texas at Austin. “Molly intentionally left behind an open book—the book of her life, so to speak. She took no prisoners, in print or in life.”

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