At the close of Pamela Colloff’s “The Witness,” Michelle Lyons—who during the course of a fourteen-year career, first as a reporter for the Huntsville Item and then as an employee of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, watched the executions of 278 condemned inmates—had filed a federal lawsuit against TDCJ over her demotion in 2012, a move that ultimately led to her decision to leave the agency. At the time our story went to press, her case had stalled in the courts. But on September 9, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a lower court ruling, ordering that Lyons’s lawsuit against TDCJ be allowed to go forward. The case will go to trial in Houston.
Thank you for yet another Austin-centric cover story [“Can Steve Patterson Fill This Stadium?”]. Did you know I-35 actually continues south past Austin? You should drive that way sometime. You might discover that the seventh-largest city in America has an NBA team and that that team has captured the attention of everybody on the planet with the exception of the editors of Texas Monthly. Excuse me now while I cuddle up and read a cover story about an irrelevant football team that nobody but UT alumni cares about anymore.
Mark Rybczyk, via email
Sometimes I think you should just change the name of your magazine to “University of Texas Monthly.”
Jennifer Bussey, via facebook
I am highly offended by the Texas coach on the front cover. Texas Tech’s Kliff Kingsbury is much better-looking and has more visibility nationwide. Not all Texans are burnt-orange fans. Here’s to the red and black!
Martha York, Lubbock
What happens when the manager of an established athletics brand—someone with experience as an athlete and a coach, numerous Hall of Fame inductions, and thirteen national championships under his guidance—is replaced by an executive-suite hopper with a business administration and law background? We are in the process of finding out. Will the paper tiger burn bright and scamper off to the next curated bucket of money, or will it fold itself into an actual tiger, capable of competing in the cutthroat world of college athletics? We seem to be looking at option one, blaze and run. Perhaps Steve Patterson will provide student-athletes with free legal advice before they sign contracts that transfer the profits from their efforts and likenesses to the university?
Subtext9, via texasmonthly.com
“Can a new athletics director and a new attitude return UT to glory?” The answer is clearly no. They can’t beat BYU.
Chris Dorhn, via texasmonthly.com
I find it hard to believe that Daniel Vaughn speaks for anyone but a small subset of barbecue fanatics [“Confessions of a Fat Bastard”]. The clue was his statement “. . . our first slice of fatty brisket from Franklin Barbecue. It was barbecue nirvana.” Having owned a barbecue restaurant, I know that some like the crispy burnt ends and fatty deckle topknot, but if you don’t produce a crimson-ringed, moist slice from the lean portion of the brisket, called the “flat,” you’re not going to be around long. I’m sure Mr. Franklin produces both, but the fatty pieces are not what keep the lines long.
John Johnson, Arlington
When Texas Monthly announced plans to have the nation’s first barbecue editor, I figured the Lone Star State would finally get its due as the nation’s best spot for slow-cooked brisket on an open pit. I had no idea this would turn into a survival test to see if Daniel Vaughn would live through his assignment. “Confessions of a Fat Bastard” had all the makings of a fun story about eating barbecue three times a day. But Vaughn’s constant references to his cholesterol count and concerns from family and friends took all the fun out of the feature. I get it. I know eating the state’s fattiest food isn’t healthy. But that’s what he signed on for. Let’s hope he can get past the dire warnings and get on with his search for our state’s best back-road barbecue.
Henry Tatum, Dallas
Calling yourself “fat” is one thing; “bastard” is another. Your mother must feel very honored.
Donrad2, via texasmonthly.com
What marks life as a full-time BBQ editor? Blissful ignorance to animal suffering, evidently. This is just sad.
James McWilliams, via twitter
Health concerns aside . . . I want this man’s job.
Thomas Bingham, via twitter
I found the full-time barbecue editor’s article to be an uncomfortable, obsessive story about . . . the barbecue editor. The opportunity to feature any real discussions of barbecue before the magazine’s annual barbecue festival was pushed aside so Mr. Vaughn could spend several pages telling us how miserable he is traveling the state covering smoked meats. Other than a few names of oft-celebrated establishments and already-famous pitmasters, there was little useful information in this piece. I would have truly enjoyed some “behind the smoke” information for those of us traveling one-hundred-plus miles to attend the fest. Mr. Vaughn, covering our vast state’s barbecue treasures should be considered a marathon rather than a sprint. Slow down, enjoy the ’cue.
David Walsh, via email
If you’ve ever wondered how some fashion bloggers survive, read “The Click Clique.”
Sylvia Chong, via twitter
This @francescamari piece on fashion kids is so good and so nuts.
Amanda Petrusich, via twitter
A must read about the business of fashion blogging and affiliate marketing.
Jessie Peterson, via twitter
Fun @TexasMonthly read on Instagram fash people is also sly critique of the entire premise of affiliate marketing.
Joseph Clift, via twitter
I began following Pamela Colloff a little over four years ago, as she wrote “Dreaming of Her,” about Selena Quintanilla Perez. Since then, I eagerly anticipate each issue of Texas Monthly, hoping that it will include an expository narrative by Ms. Colloff. The accounts of Anthony Graves and Michael Morton, in 2010 and 2012, respectively, were noteworthy payoffs, as is September’s piece on Michelle Lyons [“The Witness”], offering an otherwise untouched understanding of what happens behind (and beyond) the Walls Unit, in Huntsville, not only to the condemned but also to those involved in the final stages of the death row process. Objectively detached yet forceful with words, Ms. Colloff compels her readers to think, affecting the lives and legacies of those about whom she writes—and for whom she writes. Ms. Colloff’s words resonate well after they are written, and as long as she continues publishing with Texas Monthly, I will subscribe.
Paul Schweizer, Dallas
What an incredible article. I was very conflicted and moved.
Geraldine Lavallee, via texasmonthly.com
Beautifully written. So raw with conflicting emotion. Well done, Pamela.
Carly-Jay Metcalfe, via texasmonthly.com
This is surely an interesting story. And if it were fiction, I would say I really liked it. But I cannot hear someone in the twenty-first century invoking the “I had a job to do” excuse. That’s precisely what those who worked in concentration camps used to say to justify their barbaric deeds.
Sandrine Ageorges-Skinner, via texasmonthly.com
This story wasn’t about the issues surrounding the death penalty. This story was about a woman watching more than two hundred people die in her lifetime. Yes, those issues are relevant, but this story is not a soapbox. It’s someone’s life and experiences.
Robert Mccausland, via texasmonthly.com
I’ve always identified as an adamant opponent of the death penalty, but I found myself willing to accompany Michelle Lyons through her thought process. You made me curious to learn more about her complex character. I believe that your article really has the power to speak to people who are indecisive about the topic. You are not just preaching to the choir.
Martyna Starosta, via email
Congratulations, Texas Monthly, for including the views of the pro-life activist Kyleen Wright in your left-leaning magazine [“The Compassionate Social Conservative”]! I knew I kept renewing my subscription for a good reason!
Margene A. Wise, via email