257 Articles

Book Review |
April 1, 2005

Towelhead

Thirteen-year-old Jasira’s sexual explorations are the truest gauge of her emotional state in ALICIA ERIAN’S brassy novel TOWELHEAD (Simon & Schuster). She is variously transported when she discovers the Big O, confused and hurt by a predatory neighbor, and finally satisfied by her first real boyfriend in this no-holds-barred fiction

Book Review |
April 1, 2005

A Slight Trick of the Mind

Texas-raised MITCH CULLIN has taken a lion-in-winter approach to the Sherlock Holmes myth, portraying the legendary sleuth as a beekeeping retiree drifting into the mists of forgetfulness on his Sussex Downs estate in A SLIGHT TRICK OF THE MIND (Nan A. Talese/Doubleday). And he’s done so in an elegantly entertaining

Book Review |
April 1, 2005

Dishing

“We ate our way through the Eisenhower recession, the Cuban missile crisis, Vietnam,” and a smorgasbord of other tragedies, says New York Post gossip maven LIZ SMITH of her ready-for-prime- rib social circle in DISHING (Simon & Schuster). This sassy memoir-with-occasional-recipe is the Fort Worth native’s lip-smacking tribute to her

Book Review |
March 1, 2005

Honky Tonk Hero

When your memoir begins, “I was not even born yet when my father first tried to kill me,” you had better be prepared to deliver the goods, and indeed, BILLY JOE SHAVER recounts enough tales of hell-raising, songwriting, tragedy, and near-brushes with stardom to fill several lifetimes in HONKY TONK

Book Review |
March 1, 2005

Ten Little New Yorkers

Chances are good that TEN LITTLE NEW YORKERS (Simon & Schuster) is the last print appearance of KINKY FRIEDMAN’s fictional alter ego (see “Killing Me Softly,”). Which perhaps explains why the Kinksters, scribe and sleuth both, appear uncommonly morose in writing and partaking of their usual ration of Cuban

Book Review |
February 1, 2005

The White League

In THOMAS ZIGAL’s sophisticated thriller THE WHITE LEAGUE (Toby Press), New Orleans coffee magnate Paul Blanchard peeks beneath the Mardi Gras masks of his fellow captains of industry and discovers a secret society still fighting for segregation long after its antecedent—the real-life White League—was believed disbanded in 1877. Blanchard, cut

Book Review |
February 1, 2005

As Hot As It Was You Ought To Thank Me

Secrets are hard to keep in a small town like Pinetta, Florida, and a devastating hurricane further lays bare the private lives of Pinetta’s families in AS HOT AS IT WAS YOU OUGHT TO THANK ME (Back Bay Books), a jewel of a novel by Austinite NANCI KINCAID. Blossoming

Book Review |
February 1, 2005

One Ranger

As a memoir, ONE RANGER (UT Press) is all over the map, but, oh, the places you’ll go in this collection of anecdotes from retired Texas Ranger H. JOAQUIN JACKSON, with DAVID MARION WILKINSON. Jackson serves as a folksy but savvy tour guide to a career that stretched from 1966

Books |
January 1, 2005

Judgement Days

Lyndon Johnson cited passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 as the proudest moment of his presidency, and in JUDGMENT DAYS (Houghton Mifflin), Pulitzer prize—winning journalist NICK KOTZ puzzles together the complex alliance between LBJ and Martin Luther King Jr. that resulted in the landmark civil rights accomplishments of

Book Review |
January 1, 2005

Bloodlines

Houston native JAN BURKE has reprised salty-tongued reporter Irene Kelly for the first time since 1999 in BLOODLINES (Simon & Schuster), an ambitious thriller that spans decades to deliver a sprawling tale of murder, missing persons, and mistaken identity. The elaborate plot kicks off on one eventful night in 1958,

Books |
January 1, 2005

The Language of the Sycamores

There is nothing subtle about THE LANGUAGE OF SYCAMORES (New American Library), the latest novel from LISA WINGATE, a Central Texas writer who moonlights as an inspirational speaker (or vice versa). Wingate delivers a relentlessly uplifting message in the voice of narrator Karen Sommerfield, who is struggling to weather a

Book Review |
December 1, 2004

Freaks & Fire: The Underground Reinvention Of Circus

What’s in a name? Irony, humor, and nostalgia for the seedy traveling shows of old in the cases of Circus Contraption, Zamora the Torture King, and the Yard Dogs Road Show—just three of the ten or so alternative circuses masterfully profiled in FREAKS & FIRE: THE UNDERGROUND REINVENTION OF

Book Review |
December 1, 2004

Loop Group

Maggie Clary misses her womb. After 58 whole-bodied and even-keeled years living in the Hollywood bungalow where she was raised, a hysterectomy has dumped her into a state of quiet despair. None of life’s usual pleasures—shopping with her best girlfriend, Connie, Bloody Marys at Musso & Franks, or looping

Book Review |
November 1, 2004

zesch

It was relatively easy for SCOTT ZESCH to find his great-great-great uncle Adolph Korn’s gravestone in their family’s hometown of Mason. It was considerably more difficult to uncover the facts of his ancestor’s abduction as a child by an Apache raiding party in 1870 and understand why, by most

Book Review |
November 1, 2004

hicks

In 1994 caustic stand-up comic BILL HICKS was knocking on stardom’s door when he died of pancreatic cancer at the age of 32. Ten years later, those who missed the Houston-bred Hicks on his first go-round get fresh exposure to his scathing and profane social commentary with the simultaneous release

Book Review |
November 1, 2003

Vernon God Little

Before the curtain rises on DBC Pierre‘s coal-black comedy Vernon God Little (Canongate), fifteen-year-old Vernon Little is just another potty-mouthed high school loser trapped in the fictional Texas town of Martirio. After his much-abused friend Jesus shoots sixteen classmates and then himself, Vernon is branded a probable psychokiller (or at

Book Review |
November 1, 2003

The King Is Dead

The King Is Dead (Knopf), Austinite Jim Lewis‘s sterling novel of politics, race, fidelity, and regret, is a model of literary economy. In an epicworthy tale packed into a brisk 260 pages, Walter Selby, a top aide to Tennessee’s governor, wrestles with the dodgy ethics of political life and the

Book Review |
November 1, 2003

By Sorrow’s River

How much Larry McMurtry is too much? Ready or not, here he comes again with the third installment of his seriocomic Berrybender Narratives a scant six months after book two. By Sorrow’s River (Simon & Schuster) won’t win him another Pulitzer, but the pages blow by like a prairie wind

Books |
July 31, 2003

Killing Time

Stephen Graham Jones's All the Beautiful Sinners is a wild-eyed thriller; Amanda Eyre Ward's Sleep Toward Heaven is a tale of grief, forgiveness, and the death penalty.

Books |
September 30, 2002

Days of Their Lives

Novels about college classmates reconnecting and rekindling at reunion time are nothing new, but Tim O'Brien's July, July succeeds with honors.

Books |
July 31, 2002

The Buzz

Kathy Hepinstall is one of four underappreciated Texas writers you should be reading this summer.

Books |
March 1, 2002

Hooked

When Matt Clark succumbed to cancer in 1998, the young writer left behind an inventive unpublished novel called Hook Man Speaks. Then his friends stepped in-and brought the book back from the dead.

Books |
November 1, 2001

The Plot Sickens

Sandra Brown's latest novel-and her umpteenth best-seller-is called Envy. Funny, that's the last feeling I get when I read her work.

Books |
May 31, 2001

West Meets East

In Sarah Bird's finest novel to date, she goes halfway around the world for down-home inspiration.

Book Review |
March 1, 2001

Jan Burke

Flash back to a grisly double-homicide—father and daughter slain aboard a yacht in California. Freeze the image of the teenage son who survived, only to be murdered in his hospital bed. Fast-forward ten years to detective Frank Harriman as he faces the awful possibility that the case might have wrongly

Book Review |
February 1, 2001

James Hynes

The ivy-covered halls of higher learning are neither hallowed nor hushed in The Lecturer’s Tale, Austinite James Hynes’s wicked satire of high and low professorial ambitions at a fictitiously renowned university in Minnesota. Rather this tale of underachiever Nelson Humboldt—newly cashiered from his lecturer’s position—noisily flays the school’s oddball faculty

Book Review |
January 1, 2001

Robert Justin Goldstein

When Gregory Lee Johnson burned an American flag while demonstrating outside the 1984 Republican National Convention in Dallas, the police hauled him in for violating a 1973 flag protection law. Big surprise. But no one anticipated that Johnson’s insurgency would lead to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1989 ruling that torching

Book Review |
December 1, 2000

Dan McGraw

IN 1999 Dan McGraw took leave from his post as a Fort Worth-based senior editor at U.S. News and World Report and headed for his football-crazy hometown of Cleveland—ostensibly to write about the return of the Browns to the NFL but ultimately to escort his cancer-stricken father to a graceful

Book Review |
November 1, 2000

Larry McMurtry

Mere mortals might consider taking a breather after publishing four titles in twelve months, but Larry McMurtry is made of sterner stuff. Title number four, Boone’s Lick (Simon and Schuster), is the first novel in a new series about the American West in the late nineteenth century. And a killer

Book Review |
November 1, 2000

Bruce Sterling

Austinite Bruce Sterling’s keen eye for global Sturm und Drang has served him well in futuristic novels such as Holy Fire and Distraction, which present darkly comic visions of a new world disorder. In a surprising twist for the science fiction writer, Zeitgeist: A Novel of Metamorphosis is set in

Book Review |
September 30, 2000

Bill Crawford

Compiling the mug shots, last meals, and criminal vitae of 222 inmates executed by the State of Texas is not great literature. As high concept, social commentary, and true crime, though, Austinite Bill Crawford’s Texas Death Row: Executions in the Modern Era (Longstreet Press) is surprisingly fluent. The institutional portraits

Book Review |
August 31, 2000

Doug Swanson

Fort Worth’s Doug Swanson is pulling the plug on his Jack Flippo series, which makes House of Corrections (Putnam) your last chance to dance with the charming wild man. Flippo is all the more endearing for his faults (e.g., a propensity for sharing wives not his own). And this is

Book Review |
August 31, 2000

Purple Cane Road

“Years ago, in state documents, Vachel Carmouche was always referred to as the electrician, never as the executioner.” This stately but ominous opening line kick-starts Purple Cane Road (Doubleday), the crown jewel of James Lee Burke’s Dave Robicheaux series. The Houston native wrings enough nuance, danger, and humor out of

Book Review |
July 31, 2000

Royal and Ancient: Blood, Sweat, and Fear at the British Open

A nodding acquaintance with golf is sufficient to enjoy Royal and Ancient: Blood, Sweat, and Fear at the British Open (Villard), by Bristol’s Curt Sampson. The book retraces Jean Van De Velde’s inglorious loss at the 1999 Open, but its heart is the historical (and sometimes hysterical) evolution of the

Book Review |
July 31, 2000

Dead Man’s Bay: A Case for Barrett Raines

It is, perhaps, damning with faint praise, but for a great summer read you can’t do much better than Austinite Darryl Wimberley’s Dead Man’s Bay: A Case for Barrett Raines (Thomas Dunne Books). When we find the detective wrapping himself around a cold beer at 7:45 of a workday morning,

Book Review |
June 30, 2000

The Special Prisoner

In Japanese POW camps in World War II, American airmen were designated as “special prisoners,” but the title of Jim Lehrer’s novel The Special Prisoner (Random House) refers to septuagenarian Bishop John Quincy Watson of San Antonio. Fifty years after he endured a horrific imprisonment in Camp Sengei 4, Watson

Book Review |
June 30, 2000

It’s Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life

Two Lance Armstrongs can be found in the Austinite’s self-reflection, It’s Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life (G. P. Putnam’s Sons). There’s Fairy Tale Lance—the cyclist who survives cancer to win bike racing’s greatest prize, the Tour de France. And there’s Lance the Id—the still-young man struggling

Book Review |
May 31, 2000

Galveston

“It doesn’t get any better than this” is the motto that graces the entrance to Stewart Beach Amusement Park in Lubbock native Sean Stewart’s phantasmagorical Galveston (Ace Fantasy). But during Mardi Gras 2004, those words acquire droll irony after a tidal wave of magic inundates the Island and wreaks insidious

Book Review |
May 31, 2000

Shutdown

As a novelist, Austin’s R. J. Pineiro is a great computer engineer—but that’s not necessarily bad since his thriller Shutdown (Forge) relies on his knowledge of chip manufacturing. You wonder, though, if Texas Instruments expected its chip to be blamed for a fictional train crash that tosses 164

Book Review |
April 30, 2000

Scars of Sweet Paradise: The Life and Times of Janis Joplin

A mere eleven years after Holly’s fatal plane crash, another Texas rock icon went to the great beyond — but the cultural landscape had changed beyond recognition as evidenced by Alice Echols’ revisionist bio. Echols peels away Joplin’s tough-mama caricature to reveal a desperate brilliance. The posthumous psychoanalysis is buttressed

Book Review |
April 30, 2000

Rave On: The Biography of Buddy Holly

The world cried out, “Who capped Holly’s teeth?” and noted biographer Philip Norman came to the rescue with this painstakingly researched book that glows with the warmth of a fan’s enthusiasm but betrays a singular intelligence.

Book Review |
April 30, 2000

Last Cavalier: The Life and Times of John A. Lomax

Lomax receives reverential, if bloodless, treatment in Nolan Porterfield’s bio. It is a thorough — though at times stodgy — examination of the avowed Texian’s lifelong devotion to unearthing and preserving the people’s music.

Book Review |
April 30, 2000

The Life and Legend of Leadbelly

Folk-song collector John A. Lomax discovered Leadbelly in Louisiana’s Angola prison and masterminded the singer-guitarist’s 1935 introduction to the world (via New York), and their names have been linked ever since. This biographical tour de force by Charles Wolfe and Kip Lornell pulsates with the confident energy that characterized the

Book Review |
April 30, 2000

Texas Music

How big is Texas’ contribution to the world of music? Big enough to overwhelm Dallasite Rick Koster’s attempt to contain the sprawl between two covers; his Texas Music (St. Martin’s, 1998) falls short of its ambition. Which raises the question: Can any one book possibly hope to encompass Lefty Frizzell,

Book Review |
April 30, 2000

Texan Jazz

Dave Oliphant claims the definitive (well, the only) treatise on the pervasive influence of Texas’ sons and daughters on the jazz world. His crisp, near-scholarly style wisely avoids simple-headed romanticism of his subject. And the interchange of jazz players from project to project seems downright . . . promiscuous.

Book Review |
April 1, 2000

God’s Favorite: A Novel

Panama’s deposed dictator Manuel Noriega has disappeared from the world’s radar screen, but Austin’s Lawrence Wright shines a klieg light on the despot’s bizarre tenure in God’s Favorite: A Novel (Simon and Schuster). The former Texas Monthly contributing editor brilliantly fictionalizes Noriega’s fall from grace, complete with chilling depictions of

Book Review |
April 1, 2000

Shrub: The Short But Happy Political Life of George W. Bush

FOR THE BRIEFEST OF MOMENTS in Shrub: The Short But Happy Political Life of George W. Bush (Random House), the authors allow that political expediency is not George W. Bush’s sole call to arms. Witness his aggressive pursuit of a school funding initiative. That moment aside, Fort Worth Star-Telegram columnist

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