Author's Profile Photo

Senior editor John Spong holds a B.A. and a J.D. from the University of Texas. In 1997, after working two years as a civil litigator, he joined Texas Monthly as a fact-checker, then moved into a staff writing position in 2002. He was nominated for a National Magazine Award in 2010 for his story on 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, and his stories have appeared in numerous collections, including Best Food Writing 2012 (Da Capo Press, 2012) and The Best American Sports Writing 2009 (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009). Inducted into the Texas Institute of Letters in 2013, Spong also sits on the advisory council of the Wittliff Collections, at Texas State University. He lives in Austin, his home since 1971, with his wife, Julie Blakeslee, and their two sons, Willie Mo and Leon.

Articles by John Spong

Big State, Small Screen

Jan 20, 2013 By John Spong

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?

True West

Jan 20, 2013 By John Spong

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.

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

Jan 20, 2013 By John Spong

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.

Wheels of Fortune

Jan 20, 2013 By John Spong

For automakers in the U.S. and overseas, Texas is the very best market for the pickup truck. And for Texans, the pickup truck is the very best vehicle—if only for what it says about who we are. Or who we'd like to be.

Untitled Mike Flynt Project

Jan 20, 2013 By John Spong

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!

Carlos Brown Is a Hero (No Matter What He Says)

Jan 20, 2013 By John Spong

My best friend from high school is no longer the uncool, baseball-card-collecting goofball he once was. He’s a Navy surgeon and commander, and for two horrific weeks I got to watch him calmly and bravely save lives in wartime—not just Americans’ and not just soldiers’—in one of the most dangerous cities in Iraq.

Pug

Jan 20, 2013 By John Spong

He asked me if I was going to be white my whole life. I was, of course. But because of our friendship, I’m no longer the clueless upper-middle-class kid I once was.

Pit Stops

Jan 20, 2013 By Patricia Sharpe, Eileen Schwartz, Joe Nick Patoski, Katy Vine, John Morthland, Paul Burka, John Spong, Michael Hall, Jane Dure and Christopher Keyes

Where are the best places to eat barbecue in Texas? Six years ago we published a highly subjective—and hotly debated— list of our fifty favorite joints, and now we’ve gone back for seconds. Ten intrepid souls drove more than 21,000 miles in search of 2003’s worthiest ‘cue. Here’s what they came back with: the top 5 and the next 45, plus honorable mentions, great chains, and meat by mail.

Feature
L. on Wheels

Jan 20, 2013 By John Spong

Eight days in a rental car with Larry L. King, the crotchety West Texan who has written some of the greatest magazine stories of all time, would be enough to drive anyone crazy. Except his biggest fan.

Holding Garmsir

Jan 20, 2013 By John Spong

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

Dome Away From Home

Jan 20, 2013 By John Spong

Inside the Eighth Wonder of the World—the largest shelter ever organized by the American Red Cross—faith, hope, and charity helped the survivors of Hurricane Katrina begin the process of rebuilding their lives.

RIP, Larry L. King

Dec 23, 2012 By John Spong

The writer who was known for writing the book for the Broadway musical The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas died Thursday at 83. Read three of senior editor John Spong's favorite stories by the giant of Texas letters. 

Tejano Monument, Austin

Apr 30, 2012 By John Spong

The figures in the Tejano Monument, a 275-ton granite-and-bronze statue unveiled on the Capitol grounds in late March, depict the forging of modern Texas. A Spanish explorer gazes over a new world, his clothing and sword placing him in the early 1500’s, when Alonso Álvarez de Pineda became the first…

Do I Dare to Eat a Peach?

Jun 30, 2011 By John Spong

As a kid I was the pickiest eater you have ever seen, and family meals gave new meaning to the words “food fight.” But I gritted my teeth and overcame it—one disgusting tomato at a time.

Just Dance

Oct 31, 2010 By John Spong

As we mourn the passing of Club 21, one of the state's most beloved dance halls, remember to scoot across one of the many other historic, century-old two-stepping floors.

On the Road—Westbound and Down

Jul 31, 2010 By John Spong

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.

Hook’d

Mar 1, 2010 By John Spong

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

Dec 1, 2009 By John Spong

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.

The End of The Affair

Aug 31, 2009 By John Spong

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.

Doing Political Impressions

Oct 31, 2008 By John Spong

NAME: Jim Morris | AGE: 51 | HOMETOWN: Flower Mound | QUALIFICATIONS: Masterfully mimics the past seven presidents, from Richard Nixon to George W. Bush, as well as a range of presidential candidates, from John Edwards to Al Sharpton / Has provided voices for Saturday Night Live’s “The X-Presidents” cartoon…

Dude!

Sep 30, 2008 By John Spong

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.

The Last Resort

Dec 1, 2007 By John Spong

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.

Feature
Number One With a Bullet

Sep 30, 2007 By John Spong

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.

My Life As an Illegal

Jun 30, 2006 By John Spong

You’ve heard enough from the politicians and the activists, the demagogues and the bleeding hearts. Here’s my story. I only wish I could put my name on it. By Immigrant X

The Man In the White Hat

Feb 1, 2006 By John Spong

To hear John Poindexter tell it, he’s one of the good guys—a faithful steward of his West Texas land and therefore a worthy bidder for 46,000 acres of Big Bend Ranch State Park. But sometimes having your heart in the right place simply isn’t enough.

Down, but not out: Kevin Von Erich, photographed in Denton on August 24, 2005.
Six Brothers

Sep 30, 2005 By John Spong

The tragedy of the Von Erichs—the state’s first family of pro wrestling—is well known not just to fans of the sport but to the many groupies who oohed and aahed at the matinee-idol athletes over the years. Still, you haven’t really heard the story until it’s told by the sole surviving sibling, whose eldest son may be the next one to step into the ring.

Strangers on a Train

Apr 30, 2005 By John Spong

There was something irresistibly romantic about the gutter punk’s description of stowing away in freight cars. No wonder I wanted to try it—even if, at 38, I probably should have thought to myself, “You’re too old for this.”