Let me introduce you to a few fascinating people. There’s Cheryl Clark, a lifelong Houston Astros fan who has stuck with the team through the ups and the downs (mostly the downs, though it helps that outfielder George Springer is so dreamy). There’s Dallas writer Ben Fountain, whose acclaimed novel Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk is being turned into a movie directed by Ang Lee. There’s the Texanist’s late father, William Courtney, who was the venerable mayor of Temple in the seventies. There’s Jay Hunter Morris, the most famous opera singer Paris has ever produced (and by that I mean Paris, Texas, of course). And there’s Congressman Filemon Vela, who gained fame by telling Donald Trump to stick his proposed border wall in a very inconvenient place.
But none of that answers the question about the person who appears on the cover of the November issue of Texas Monthly, photographed from the side and in silhouette. That would be Jim Allison (pictured above), who grew up in the town of Alice and had become a premier cancer researcher at MD Anderson, in Houston. As our cover story reveals, it’s no exaggeration to say that his work in the field of immunology may one day save countless lives from the horror of cancer. (In fact, during the production of this issue, the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded, and I held my breath. Though Allison didn’t win this year, there’s little doubt his name will be called one day.) But if you think that a long narrative on cancer research is dry, think again. Allison is the kind of character a fiction writer would love to create: has met the pope, drives a Tesla and a Porsche, has played harmonica onstage with Willie Nelson, and is as fast with a quip as anyone I’ve met.
Finally, there’s one more person, I’d like you to meet: Eric Benson. He’s the writer-at large-who so deftly profiled Allison. No matter how fascinating the character, it takes a writer with great skill to produce a story as complex as this one. Eric has written several terrific pieces for us, including a recent story on Muslim identity in Texas, but this happens to be his first cover story for Texas Monthly. I hope it’s the first of many.