Manhattan, eat your heart out. The National Book Awards just announced its 2012 finalists, and four Texas-related books made the lists. (Given that there are only five finalists in each of three categories, that’s a pretty good representation.) Dallas resident Ben Fountain and recent UT-Michener Center for Writers alum Kevin Powers were nominated in the fiction category for their debut novels Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk and The Yellow Birds (both of which deal with the fallout of the Iraq War) and LBJ biographer Robert Caro and (the dark horse in the race) South Texas native Domingo Martinez were nominated in nonfiction for, respectively, The Passage of Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson, Volume 4 and the debut memoir The Boy Kings of Texas.
Reached by email, Martinez described how he found out about being a finalist:
My phone started glowing around 6:00 a.m. this morning, and I happened to be awake. My first thought was, ‘Wow, those bill collectors are starting much earlier nowadays,’ and I ignored it, until it went off again about five minutes later and it was my agent, Alice. Alice doesn’t mess around; when she calls, it’s important, so I answered, and I could tell right away something was up because of the controlled excitement in her voice.
I depend on her to translate most of what happens in this business because I’m so new at it, and I was registering some serious excitement, but I didn’t know how to interpret it. I mean, I know the National Book Award, but it just wasn’t computing that I was A FINALIST for THE NATIONAL BOOK