The 2013 Texas Book Festival did not really count for Steph Opitz, the festival’s literary director. She started June 15, just months before the big event and with obligations still to the Brooklyn Book Festival. Opitz will put her mark on the 2014 festival, with more than 275 authors, after a year in which she read about ten books a month and scanned many, many others. “It’s the biggest Texas Book Festival ever,” Opitz said, “so I guess that will be my stamp and my breaking point.” Diversity has been emphasized, with more representation of science fiction, romance, mystery, and graphic novels. But the headliners are still the biggest draw, and two of this year’s top authors, Martin Amis and Joyce Carol Oates, are personally significant to Opitz. She fondly remembers reading Amis’s 1995 novel The Information for a detective fiction class while studying in London, and she gets goose bumps thinking about reading Oates’s 1966 short story Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? as a high school student. “I remember just waiting for the class to catch up because I needed to talk about it so badly,” Opitz said.
Various locations, Oct. 24-26, texasbookfestival.org
Son of the Devil
So what if Vlad Tepes, a.k.a. Vlad the Impaler, Prince of Wallachia, the real-life Dracula, drank the blood of some of the invading Ottoman Turks that he and his army gutted with swords or hoisted on spikes in the mid-1400’s? To many, he was not such a bad guy, a notion that is explored in the Dracula Cemetery Exhibition at the National Museum of Funeral History. “Most people have a dark view of Dracula; however, in his home country of Romania, he is still viewed as a hero, and many statues are present in his honor,” Robert Hahn, the exhibit’s curator, said. The show focuses on the connection between the historical Dracula and the fictionalized vampire in Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel, Dracula. The display, playing off Vlad Tepes’s gravesite, is anchored by a hearse with a coffin inside. A family tree traces his lineage, illustrating how he came to be known as Dracula, a combination of his father’s surname, “Dracul,” which means “dragon”—or “devil,” to some—and “ula,” which means “son of.”
National Museum of Funeral History, Oct. 24-Nov. 3, nmfh.org
Case of the Blues
The blues thrive in downtown Dallas near Park Avenue and Young Street. In 1937, in a recording studio at 508 Park, Robert Johnson, the fabled bluesman, cut nearly half of his 29-song catalog. Now the neighborhood is home to the Stewpot, a resource center for the homeless where a different sort of blues prevails. This weekend’s three-day Walk the Wall will bridge the gap between the two strains with festivities that will herald, in the coming years, the completion of Encore Park Dallas, a collaboration between the Stewpot and the First Presbyterian Church of Dallas that is leading to an innovative, multipurpose space for the community. The celebration will include live blues music in a new amphitheater, a Stewpot art show, gardening workshops, and guided tours of The Birth of the City, a sculpted bronze wall chronicling the characters, like Johnson, and scenes, like the Texas Centennial, that defined the area.
Encore Park, Oct. 24-26, encoreparkdallas.org
Ghosts of Galveston
Owing to its history as a Civil War battleground, slave trade port, and hurricane target, Galveston has enough lost souls to qualify as a giant haunted house. Explore it in various stages of fright as part of the “You’re History” Halloween activities. One option, for the fainter of heart, is to take a “Haunted Harbor” tour aboard the Seagull II passenger boat and survey spots of terror and tragedy on Galveston’s harbor. Another choice is the “Tales from the Ship” tour on the tall ship Elissa, built in 1877, which has sailed the world and whose history includes an accusation of mutiny—and where a séance was held this time last year.
Texas Seaport Museum, Oct. 30-31, galvestonhistory.org
Experience the Wild West without all of the rigors of the frontier at the Red Steagall Cowboy Gathering and Western Swing Festival, three days including cowboy poetry, a ranch rodeo, and a chuck wagon competition presided over by 75-year-old Steagall, the king of cowboy culture.
Fort Worth Stockyards, Oct. 24-Nov. 6, redsteagallcowboygathering.com
Who’s Got Game?
The Dallas Mavericks and the San Antonio Spurs have one of the fiercest rivalries anywhere, and when they tip off in their season opener, it could be one of the final chapters featuring San Antonio’s Tim Duncan, hinting at retirement after this season, and Manu Ginobli and Dallas’s Dirk Nowitzki, who may be nearing the end of their careers.
AT&T Center, Oct. 28, 7 p.m., nba.com