Mike Shea

Articles by Mike Shea

The Whiskey Rebels

Sep 30, 2008 By Mike Shea

San Antonio resident David Liss dives headlong into the capital of post-Revolutionary America—Philadelphia circa 1792—and emerges with a pearl of a thriller in The Whiskey Rebels. It’s a two-headed narrative told by Ethan Saunders, an ex-spy who has become a drunkard after being cashiered for allegedly passing secrets…

Darlene Harbour Unrue

Sep 30, 2008 By Mike Shea

The professor of English at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, has written and edited several books about the work and life of Texas literary talent Katherine Anne Porter, who died in 1980. Unrue just edited Porter: Collected Stories and Other Writings, an augmented reprint of the landmark volume that…

Nine Kinds of Naked

Sep 30, 2008 By Mike Shea

One can almost smell the patchouli wafting off the pages of Nine Kinds of Naked, a neopsychedelic satire from recently transplanted Austinite Tony Vigorito. Channeling the spirited humor of Douglas Adams’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series, Vigorito suspends the rules of time and space to create…

Curtis Sittenfeld

Aug 31, 2008 By Mike Shea

The New York Times named the author’s first novel, Prep, one of 2005’s ten best books; its successor, The Man of My Dreams, was a national best-seller. Her newest, American Wife, draws inspiration from the life of Laura Bush, though the author asserts that Wisconsinite Alice Blackwell is not a…

Bob Schieffer’s America

Aug 31, 2008 By Mike Shea

Longtime followers of Bob Schieffer, the chief Washington correspondent for CBS, will hear his silky rasp echo in their heads as they thumb through Bob Schieffer’s America, a compilation of 171 commentaries from his Sunday Face the Nation broadcasts. Always the plainspoken Texan, the veteran newsman weighs in,…

The Heretic’s Daughter

Aug 31, 2008 By Mike Shea

In 1692 Martha Carrier was arrested, tried, and hanged in Salem, Massachusetts, for having committed “sundry acts of witchcraft.” Ten generations on, her Dallas-based descendant Kathleen Kent has produced The Heretic’s Daughter, a sure-footed first novel that draws from Martha’s tribulations to evoke the short-lived witch hysteria in…

Curtis Sittenfeld

Aug 31, 2008 By Mike Shea

The New York Times named the author’s first novel, Prep, one of 2005’s ten best books; its successor, The Man of My Dreams, was a national best-seller. Her newest, American Wife, draws inspiration from the life of Laura Bush, though the author asserts that Wisconsinite Alice Blackwell is not a…

Leather Maiden

Jul 31, 2008 By Mike Shea

Life is kicking Pulitzer-nominated journalist Cason Statler squarely in the pants at the outset of Joe R. Lansdale’s potent seriocomic thriller Leather Maiden. Fired by his editor at a Houston paper for personal reasons (“I was banging his wife. And his stepdaughter”), Statler retreats to his hometown of…

Why I Came West

Jul 31, 2008 By Mike Shea

Over the course of two decades living in Montana’s remote Yaak Valley, Houston-bred Rick Bass has produced 21 books—largely about the wilderness that surrounds him—and acquired a reputation as a zealous, not to say rabid, environmental activist. Why I Came West is his attempt to redefine himself as…

Nick Flynn

Jul 31, 2008 By Mike Shea

The play Alice Invents a Little Game and Alice Always Wins represents a chance for the award-winning poet and memoirist (Another Bullshit Night in Suck City) to “work a muscle [he] hadn’t before.” He currently teaches creative writing at the University of Houston. Is Alice your first play?…

Alive in Necropolis

Jun 30, 2008 By Mike Shea

The real-world town of Colma, California—home to about 1,600 residents and more than two million corpses in seventeen cemeteries (motto: “It’s great to be alive in Colma”)— provides an odd but effective setting for Alive in Necropolis, the quirky debut novel from Austin resident Doug Dorst. To the…

Books: A Memoir

Jun 30, 2008 By Mike Shea

More than forty years into his career as an antiquarian bookseller (not to mention his other job as a Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist), Larry McMurtry has paused to reflect on a life hawking secondhand tomes in Books: A Memoir. Given his accounts of the shops and bookmen who’ve succumbed…

Sichan Siv

Jun 30, 2008 By Mike Shea

It took the San Antonio resident thirty years to write the memoir Golden Bones—a reasonable time, perhaps, to assess a life that includes an escape from Cambodia’s killing fields and stints as both a New York City cabbie and a deputy assistant secretary of state under George H. W. Bush.

Sichan Siv Interview

Jun 30, 2008 By Mike Shea

It took the San Antonio resident thirty years to write the memoir Golden Bones—a reasonable time, perhaps, to appraise a life that includes an escape from Cambodia’s killing fields and stints as both a New York City cabbie and an ambassador to the United Nations. Diplomatic to the core, Siv…

Interview with Sam Gosling

May 31, 2008 By Mike Shea

A decade of research by this University of Texas at Austin psychology prof has led to new ways of understanding the relationship between individuals and the spaces they inhabit, as he now reveals with Snoop: What Your Stuff Says About You. Snoop posits that our things open a window…

How Perfect Is That

May 31, 2008 By Mike Shea

How Perfect Is That marks Sarah Bird’s return to the madcap plotting that was her stylistic calling card in late-eighties novels like The Boyfriend School. It’s an entertaining flashback, but why now? The Texas Monthly writer-at-large was coming off her two finest novels, The Yokota Officers Club…

The Franchise Babe

May 31, 2008 By Mike Shea

As the father of the golf novel (exhibit A: Dead Solid Perfect, circa 1974), Fort Worth’s Dan Jenkins holds license in perpetuity to exercise the genre’s clichés, which he does with relish in The Franchise Babe. Self-absorbed pro golfers and sizzling golf moms in “jacked-up minis” are just…

Apples and Oranges: My Brother and Me, Lost and Found

May 31, 2008 By Mike Shea

San Antonio–born journalist Marie Brenner borrowed her memoir’s title, Apples and Oranges: My Brother and Me, Lost and Found, from the childhood nickname given to her and her older brother, Carl, with whom she was endlessly at odds. The nickname takes on a more literal aspect when Carl…

Sam Gosling

May 31, 2008 By Mike Shea

A decade of research by this University of Texas at Austin psychology prof has led to new ways of understanding the relationship between individuals and the spaces they inhabit, as he now reveals with Snoop: What Your Stuff Says About You. Snoop posits that our possessions open a window…

Bill Bishop

Apr 30, 2008 By Mike Shea

In The Big Sort, the Austin political blogger and Pulitzer finalist for editorial writing addresses America’s tendency to segment itself into tiny, like-minded groups (a phenomenon he calls “clustering”). How did the “big sort” notion come to be, and what does it signify? [Sociologist] Robert Cushing and I…

Bill Bishop

Apr 30, 2008 By Mike Shea

In The Big Sort, the Austin political blogger and Pulitzer finalist addresses America’s tendency to segment itself into tiny, like-minded groups (a phenomenon he calls clustering). How did the “big sort” notion come to be, and what does it signify? [Sociologist] Robert Cushing and I began exploring why…

The Triumph of Caesar

Apr 30, 2008 By Mike Shea

Just ten pages into The Triumph of Caesar, I had learned more Roman history from Steven Saylor than from all my high school and college professors combined. “Haruspicy was the Etruscan science of divination.” “Cato [was] leader of the opposition’s last stand against Caesar in Africa.” Indeed. In…

Holy Moly

Apr 30, 2008 By Mike Shea

Word is that Ben Rehder might drop the curtain on his snarky Blanco County mystery series with Holy Moly, the sixth novel featuring square-jawed Johnson City game warden John Marlin. If so, the Austinite goes out on a high note with this screwball tale about “pastorpreneur” Peter Boothe,…

Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

Mar 31, 2008 By Mike Shea

The best-selling Houston-based writer sets her new novel, The Palace of Illusions, in the fifth millennium BCE. Based on India’s epic Mahabharat poem, it examines love and war from the perspective of Princess Panchaali. (Read an excerpt.) The Palace of Illusions is a re-imagining of the…

Willie Nelson: An Epic Life

Mar 31, 2008 By Mike Shea

The first time nine-year-old Booger Red got drunk on beer, he decided, “I had already fucked up more ways than God was going to put up with . . . so I had in mind, the sky’s the limit from here on, I mean I can’t go to hell twice.”…

The Story of Forgetting

Mar 31, 2008 By Mike Shea

Stefan Merrill Block is a talent. Though his debut novel, The Story of Forgetting, sings a bit from the Jonathan Safran Foer hymnal (a precocious teen trying to unravel his family’s tragic history), the Plano native distinguishes himself with inventive plotting and an urbane Texas voice. High Plains…

Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

Mar 31, 2008 By Mike Shea

The best-selling Houston-based writer sets her new novel, The Palace of Illusions, in the fifth millennium BCE. Based on India’s epic Mahabharat poem, it examines love and war from the perspective of Princess Panchaali. (Read an excerpt.) What concerns did you have in tackling such a beloved…

Interview with Terry Moore

Mar 1, 2008 By Mike Shea

In June 2007 the Houston artist, writer, and publisher wrapped up his Strangers in Paradise comic book series after a fourteen-year run. He writes Runaways and Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane for Marvel Comics, and he is now launching Echo, a new superhero series. How did Strangers in Paradise differ…

Mudbound

Mar 1, 2008 By Mike Shea

The Jim Crow realities of a forties Mississippi cotton farm form a somber background for Mudbound, the long-awaited debut by Texas native Hillary Jordan. It’s a bitter tale of two World War II heroes, a bomber pilot and a tank commander, who return from the war to quite…

Names on a Map

Mar 1, 2008 By Mike Shea

In his sixth novel, Names on a Map, Benjamin Alire Saenz writes about America’s hypercharged Vietnam era with the stoic calm that you might expect from a former priest (which he is). The war has crossed the Pacific to visit the Espejo family in their El Paso home:…

The Flowers

Mar 1, 2008 By Mike Shea

Meet Sonny Bravo, the sweet but surly almost-sixteen-year-old who shrugs his way through The Flowers, Austinite Dagoberto Gilb’s first novel since 1994’s The Last Known Residence of Micky Acuña. At Los Flores— the East L.A. apartment building where Sonny lives with his mother, Silvia, and her redneck husband,…

Terry Moore

Mar 1, 2008 By Mike Shea

In June 2007 the Houston artist, writer, and publisher wrapped up his Strangers in Paradise comic book series after a fourteen-year run. He writes Runaways and Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane for Marvel Comics, and he is now launching Echo, a new superhero series. Has Echo been percolating for a…

Bruce Sterling

Feb 1, 2008 By Mike Shea

The Brownsville native and longtime Austinite has spent most of his adult life contemplating the future: A progenitor of the scruffy cyberpunk fiction movement (he edited the short-story anthology Mirrorshades and co-authored The Difference Engine with William Gibson), he has penned ten sci-fi novels and several works of nonfiction, including…

How Can I Talk If My Lips Don’t Move?

Jan 1, 2008 By Mike Shea

Austinite Tito Rajarshi Mukhopadhyay became a poster boy for the learning potential of autistic children with his first book, The Mind Tree, a collection of stories and poems he wrote between the ages of eight and eleven. In How Can I Talk If My Lips Don’t Move: inside…

The Memoirs of a Beautiful Boy

Jan 1, 2008 By Mike Shea

We’ll take Robert Leleux at his word when he declares in The Memoirs of a Beautiful Boy that, growing up in tiny Petunia, he didn’t know he was gay until he was seventeen and unexpectedly googly-eyed over his dance instructor at a community theater. Literary license or not,…

Author Interview
Kathy L. Patrick

Jan 1, 2008 By Mike Shea

This boisterous bookseller runs a Jefferson hair salon/bookstore, Beauty and the Book, that is a bastion of independent literary thinking—and egalitarian fun. She shares her Texas joie de vivre in The Pulpwood Queens’ Tiara-Wearing, Book-Sharing Guide to Life. What exactly is a Pulpwood Queen? The Pulpwood Queens are…

Aaron Allston

Dec 1, 2007 By Mike Shea

The Round Rock author and former video game designer has just penned his ninth Star Wars serialization, Legacy of the Force: Fury.

Aaron Allston

Dec 1, 2007 By Mike Shea

The Round Rock author and former video game designer has just penned his ninth Star Wars serialization, Legacy of the Force: Fury. What cachet does your role in the Star Wars franchise afford you in the realm of SF fandom? Reader reactions fall into three categories: eyebrows go up,…

Born Standing Up: A Comic’s Life

Dec 1, 2007 By Mike Shea

There is something irresistibly civilized about the Steve Martin who abandoned live comedy to ply his trade as a writer, first as a playwright (1993’s Picasso at the Lapin Agile), then as a novelist and screenwriter (Shopgirl), and now as an autobiographer, with Born Standing Up: A Comic’s…

A Land So Strange

Dec 1, 2007 By Mike Shea

History buffs will know sixteenth-century Spaniard Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca as one of the first Europeans to explore Texas, but even they will find surprises in A Land So Strange: The Epic Journey of Cabeza de Vaca, by Mexico City native Andres Resendez. Cabeza de Vaca (yes,…

Bill Cunningham

Oct 31, 2007 By Mike Shea

Inspired by the popularity of a panel on Texas crime literature hosted by the Southwestern Writers Collection in 2004, editors Bill Cunningham, Steven L. Davis, and Rollo K. Newsom have compiled Lone Star Sleuths: An Anthology of Texas Crime Fiction, with thirty excerpts from the likes of Rick Riordan, David…

Bill Cunningham

Oct 31, 2007 By Mike Shea

Inspired by the popularity of a panel on Texas crime literature hosted by the Southwestern Writers Collection in 2004, editors Bill Cunningham, Steven L. Davis, and Rollo K. Newsom have compiled Lone Star Sleuths: An Anthology of Texas Crime Fiction, with thirty excerpts from the likes of Rick Riordan, David Lindsey, Mary Willis Walker, and Joe R. Lansdale.

Custer’s Brother’s Horse

Oct 31, 2007 By Mike Shea

Edwin “Bud” Shrake’s picaresque Custer’s Brother’s Horse makes fine fodder of the bad blood in Texas following the Civil War, circa 1865. Federal troops visit indignities on the defeated communities they occupy; neighbors who fought on separate sides find no peace in the surrender. The horse in question,…

The Last Jew Standing

Sep 30, 2007 By Mike Shea

Themes of family and loyalty provide a nice counterbalance to the gruesome violence (wood chipper, anyone?) in The Last Jew Standing, the fourth excellent offering from lit noir master Michael Simon. The action begins when small-time hoodlum Ben Reles shows up on the doorstep of his son, Lieutenant…

The Tecate Journals

Sep 30, 2007 By Mike Shea

Expectations run low for a river-paddling diary named after a popular (though decidedly watery) Mexican cerveza, which accounts in part for the pleasure of discovering The Tecate Journals: Seventy Days on the Rio Grande, in which Laredo journalist and writing professor Keith Bowden documents his grueling voyage along…