Connecting Texas books and writers with those who most want to discover them

Lone Star Reviews


Spencer Kope

Whispers of the Dead: A Special Tracking Unit Novel

Minotaur Books

Hardcover, 978-1-2500-7288-7, (also available as an e-book, an audio book, and on Audible), 336 pgs., $26.99; April 17, 2018


A pair of human feet are found in a Styrofoam cooler in the middle of a judge’s living room in El Paso, Texas. Another pair are found in a defense attorney’s living room in Tucson. FBI Operations Specialist Magnus Craig and his partner, FBI Special Agent James Donovan, along with intelligence research specialist Diane Parker, form the FBI’s Special Tracking Unit. They have a serial killer on their hands, apparently meting out vigilante justice.


Whispers of the Dead: A Special Tracking Unit Novel is the second in a mystery-suspense series by Spencer Kope, a crime analyst for the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office in Washington State. Collecting the Dead (Minotaur, 2016) is the first installment in Kope’s series, and while not necessary to understand follow the action in Whispers of the Dead, it provides some references to prior events, including in the epilogue, which also tees up the third book.  >>READ MORE


Lawrence Wright

God Save Texas: A Journey into the Soul of the Lone Star State

Alfred A. Knopf

Hardcover, 978-0-5255-2010-4, (also available as an e-book, on Audible, and as a large-print paperback), 368 pgs., $27.95

April 17, 2018


In a former life, I was a paralegal for an international law firm in Dallas. During a conversation with a lawyer from Philadelphia, he told me something astonishing. According to him, neither does Pennsylvania require years of state history in school curriculum, nor do automobile manufacturers create Pennsylvania-edition SUVs. He’d never experienced anything like the Texas identity juggernaut and wanted me to explain it. I’m going to send him an email recommending Lawrence Wright’s new book.


Wright focuses his razor-sharp lens inward and on his home state in God Save Texas: A Journey into the Soul of the Lone Star State. Austinite Wright is a staff writer for The New Yorker, playwright, screenwriter, novelist, and author of ten books of nonfiction, including Pulitzer Prize winner The Looming Tower (Alfred A. Knopf, 2006). God Save Texas is history lesson, cultural criticism, reporting, and memoir. By turns funny and fond, disgusted and resigned, Wright defaults to weary exasperation, but he can’t deny that only Texas feels like home.  >>READ MORE


Glen Larum

Waltz Against the Sky

Walking Three Bar T Publishing

Hardcover, 978-0-9966865-0-1, 400 pages; $28.95; 2016


As you open Austin and Midland writer Glen Larum’s debut novel, get ready for a dance with characters who are caught in swirls of life’s randomness, its chance convergences, and their own spur-of-the-moment decisions.

     Waltz Against the Sky has echoes of mysteries by such writers as Tony Hillerman and Elmore Leonard. But Larum also has his own style, and he’s good at building tension and suspense within seemingly commonplace moments and everyday encounters.

     What you do not get in this 399-page book is a fast foxtrot of familiar actions and conventional plot.

      Larum’s novel is set mostly in a small, fictional West Texas town known as Indian Springs. (Yes, the Lone Star State has at least two communities—one in Southeast Texas and one near San Antonio—that call themselves Indian Springs.) Waltz Against the Sky takes place in a town where five highways converge. >>READ MORE


Texas Reads

>> archive


Texas cookbooks appeal to wide range of taste buds


Every year Texas chefs produce mouth-watering cookbooks, and four have come across my desk already in 2018. They are:


Hard Core Carnivore: Cook Meat Like You Mean It by Jess Pryles (Surrey Books, $29.95 flexbound).


The Austin Cookbook: Recipes and Stories from Deep in the Heart of Texas by Paula Forbes (Abrams Books, $29.95 hardcover).


Paulie’s: Classic Italian Cooking in the Heart of Houston’s Montrose District by Paul Petronella (Greenleaf, $27.95 hardcover).


The Ultimate Tortilla Press Cookbook by Dotty Griffith (Harvard Common Press, $24.99 paperback).


As the title of her book suggests, Jess Pryles focuses on cooking meat, with plenty of recipes for chicken, game, pork, lamb, beef, and sides. Her own personal favorite, she admits, is beef.


Pryles, who was born in Australia, now makes her home in Austin. She said she “used to be intimidated by the idea of cooking meat,” and so she set out to change that, visiting ranches, butcher shops, and other locales to learn about meat. “Put simply,” she writes, “I’m a meat nerd, and now I get to share both my discoveries and recipes with you.”


A few entrees from the beef chapter: the perfect steak, twice-cooked cola short ribs, chicken fried steak, the steakhouse burger, beef hand pies, and chile-crusted roast beef.


Paula Forbes, a food and restaurant writer in Austin, devotes chapters in her Austin cookbook to barbecue, tacos, Tex-Mex, Texas standards, new Austin classics, breakfast and brunch, drinks, sweets, and salsas, sauces and chilis.


“The dishes in this cookbook,” she writes, “come from some of the great Austin restaurants. In fact, in many ways this book doubles as a restaurant guide.” She said she personally tested the recipes in her own home kitchen to make sure they could be reproduced at home, but she notes that “while many of the recipes are easy enough for beginners, this isn’t really intended to be a book full of quick weeknight meals.”


Just a few examples: chicken tinga, from Jack Allen’s Kitchen; 24 hash, from 24 Diner; sweet potato nachos, from Odd Duck; the fried chicken from Lucy’s Fried Chicken, and chicken fried steak with cream gravy from the Broken Spoke.


Paul Petronella includes recipes for a number of Italian-American dishes and desserts but also tells the story of operating a family business.


“The biggest myth is that owners of small businesses are sitting on piles of money,” he writes. “That couldn’t be further from the truth. Small business owners should know how much money is going out and how much is coming in at all times. In most cases, inexperienced restaurateurs don’t account for all the costs that restaurants incur to operate in the long term.”


Most of the book consists of recipes for such fare as fettuccini scampi, rigatoni Bolognese, eggplant parmigiana, citrus asparagus, and key lime pie, interspersed with Petronella’s experience of operating Paulie’s for twenty years.


Dotty Griffith, longtime Dallas food journalist and author, provides 125 recipes for burritos, enchiladas, tacos, fajitas, soups, and desserts.


The first section of the book is about basics: tortillas and how to make them. But whether you make them yourself or just buy them at the grocery or tortilleria, Griffith offers plenty of tasty ways to use them.


* * * * *


Glenn Dromgoole writes about Texas books and authors. Contact him at g.dromgoole@suddenlink.net.


>> Check out his previous Texas Reads columns in Lone Star Literary Life


* * * * *



Can you name this literary place in the Lone Star State?


Admit it: bookfans love traveling almost as much as they love reading itself. Beginning March 4, 2018, Lone Star Literary Life will roll out #10 through #6 in our annual list of Top Texas Bookish Destinations, for readers who want to visit the settings of their favorite books, the birthplaces and haunts of favorite authors, and hot spots for book buying, readings, and other literary activity.

     But throughout Texas’s 268,597 square miles, there are also lots of out-of-the-way points of interest that we don’t always have space to cover in our Top Ten pages.

     Watch this space each week for a new bookish place that you’ll want to add to your own travel list. Be the first to email us with the correct identification, and win a prize!

     This week, we continue with a bookish place that’s located in 2017’s #2 Top Bookish Destination. There’s plenty of poetry in this literary-rich city, but there’s a Poet Tree, too. Can you name the city? And extra credit for telling our readers the neighborhood or street where they can find it, too.


Email us at info@LoneStarLiterary.com with the specific right answer, and we'll send you a free copy of Literary Texas.



LAST MONTH’S PHOTO (below) was correctly identified as the Capitol Gift Shop, inside the state capitol building in Austin. Congratulations — your prize is on the way!






LONE STAR LISTENS interviews   >> archive

4.15.2018  Award-winning poet Amanda Johnston talks about Texas roots and her work for social justice



Last April when Moyers & Co., the news website for Bill Moyers’s team of writers and journalists, decided to write about National Poetry Month, they chose to celebrate the occasion by featuring examples of “civic” poetry from new and familiar voices. Throughout the month they discussed what it meant to be civic through the art of words. One of the first poets they interviewed was Austin poet Amanda Johnston. This week, we spoke with Johnston via email about her path to poetry and publishing and how she turned the focus of her poetry toward social justice.


Where did you grow up, Amanda, and how do you think that experience influenced your work?


I was born in East Saint Louis, Illinois, and raised in Austin, Texas. Being of those two cities has made me interested in origin stories and the identity of place. My poetry is greatly influenced by family and social / regional issues.


Have you always written poetry? How did you come to poetry?


My mother gave me copies of Shel Silverstein’s books as a child and I was hooked. I couldn’t read them fast enough. There was something naughty and daring about the work and fell into the playfulness of the language. Later, in my early twenties, I came back to poetry and discovered I was a poet, too. The intrigue and mystery of each line leading to the next and the risk of committing one’s truth to the page

still grounds me in the work today.   >>READ MORE


Texas's only statewide, weekly calendar of book events
Bookish Texas event highlights  4.15.2018
>> GO this week   Michelle Newby, Contributing Editor



  • Canadian River Valley Writer's Workshop, Canadian, April 13-15
  • El Paso Comic Con, April 13-15
  • National Book Awards Festival, Huntsville, April 16-17
  • Historical Manuscripts Auction, Dallas, April 18
  • North Texas Teen Book Festival, Irving, April 20-21
  • Poetry at Round Top, April 20-22


AUSTIN  Mon., Apr. 16  BookPeople, CHARLES FRAZIER speaking & signing Varina, 7PM [ticketed event]


HOUSTON  Mon., Apr. 16   The Junior League, the World Affairs Council of Greater Houston presents Mikhail Gorbachev: His Life and Times with Pulitzer Prize Winner William Taubman, 7PM


AUSTIN  Tues., Apr. 17 Central Presbyterian Church, the Texas Book Festival and Austin Film Festival host Lawrence Wright discussing and signing God Save Texas: A Journey into the Soul of the Lone Star State, 7PM
ALSO SIGNING IN DALLAS  Thurs., Apr. 19, Jones Day, the World Affairs Council of DFW Global Forum, 12 noon

ALSO SIGNING IN DALLAS  Thurs., Apr. 19, Interabang Books 7 PM


EL PASO  Tues., Apr. 17  The Black Orchid Lounge, BorderSenses' Barbed Wire Open Mic celebrates National Poetry Month, 8PM


SAN ANTONIO  Tues., Apr. 17 The Twig Book Shop, Marion Oettinger discussing and signing San Antonio 1718: Art From Mexico, 5PM


DALLAS  Wed., Apr. 18   The Wild Detectives, Noir at the Bar featuring readings from Michael Pool, Michael Bracken, Eryk Pruitt, Tim Bryant, Carlos Salas, Lyndee Walker, and Clay Reynolds, 7:30PM


HOUSTON  Fri., Apr. 20 Murder By the Book, David Ricciardi will sign and discuss Warning Light (with Meg Gardiner), 6:30PM


SAN ANTONIO  Fri., Apr. 20 Viva Tacoland, Gemini Ink Reading Series: a themed reading on the myth, mystery, and madness of San Antonio (followed by an open mic), 6:30PM


AUSTIN  Sat., Apr. 21 St. Edward's University, Writers' League of Texas workshop: "Historical Fiction 101: Mastering Research and Drama" with James L. Haley, 10AM


BEAUMONT  Sat., Apr. 21  Jefferson Theatre, Meet & Greet with Joe R. Lansdale, author of the Hap and Leonard series, followed by a book signing (hosted by Fleur Fine Books), 5:15PM


DALLAS  Sun., Apr. 22  EarthX at Fair Park, the World Affairs Council of DFW hosts Varun Sivaram discussing and signing Taming the Sun: Innovations to Harness Solar Energy and Power the Planet, 1PM


HOUSTON  Sun., Apr. 22   Meyerland Performing and Visual Arts Middle School, Inprint's "Cool Brains" hosts Kwame Alexander reading, discussing, and signing Rebound, 3PM


News Briefs 4.15.18

17th annual Poetry at Round Top presents nation’s leading poets April 20–22, 2018


Poetry at Round Top is an annual festival presenting the nation's most exciting and prominent poets over three days of readings, workshops, and conversations on craft.


Featured poets in the 2018 event include Naomi Shihab Nye, Coleman Barks, Aimee Nezhukumatathil, Roger Reeves, Javier Zamora, Emmy Pérez, Carrie Fountain, Kurt Heinzelman, and Liz Garton Scanlon, with a musical program by Isaac Peña.


Workshop leaders also include Scott Brownlee, Tomas Morin and Laura van Prooyen.   >>READ MORE


Half Price Books invites readers to “Donate a book /  Rewrite a kid's story” during Half Pint Book Drive


During its annual Half Pint Library Book Drive from April 1 to 30, 2018, Half Price Books will match donations of new or gently used children’s books. The books will help build libraries in schools, after-school programs, and other nonprofits, with the goal of making a positive impact on the life stories of local kids.


Thanks to the generous support of customers and employees, Half Price Books was able to donate more than 330,789 books to area children for the 2017 drive.Poet Laureate] I am planning to do what I do now, which is promoting literacy, promoting community, and promoting poetry.”  >>READ MORE

 ——­——— A D V E R T I S E M E N T —————

Lone Star Listens compilation available spring 2018, for readers, fans, and writers everywhere


The present generation of Texas authors is the most diverse ever in gender, age, and ethnicity, and in subject matter as well.


Week in, week out, Lone Star Literary has interviewed a range of Texas-related authors with a cross-section of genre and geography. To capture this era in Texas letters, we're pleased to bring you


Lone Star Listens:

Texas Authors on Writing and Publishing

edited by Kay Ellington and Barbara Brannon; introduction by Clay Reynolds

Available in trade paper, library hardcover, and ebook Spring 2018

360 pages, with b/w illustrations and index


Featuring novelists, poets, memoirists, editors, and publishers, including:

Rachel  Caine • Chris  Cander • Katherine  Center • Chad S. Conine • Sarah  Cortez • Elizabeth  Crook • Nan  Cuba • Carol  Dawson • Patrick  Dearen • Jim Donovan • Mac Engel • Sanderia  Faye • Carlos Nicolás Flores • Ben Fountain • Jeff  Guinn • Stephen  Harrigan • Cliff  Hudder • Stephen Graham Jones • Kathleen Kent • Joe R. Lansdale • Melissa Lenhardt • Attica Locke • Nikki  Loftin • Thomas  McNeely • Leila  Meacham • John  Pipkin • Joyce Gibson Roach • Antonio  Ruiz-Camacho • Lisa  Sandlin • Donna  Snyder • Mary Helen Specht • Jodi  Thomas • Amanda Eyre Ward • Ann  Weisgarber • Donald Mace Williams


As a collection of insights into the writing and publishing life, the book will be useful in creative writing classes (not just in Texas alone) and other teaching settings, as well as for solo reading and study—and a great Texas reference volume.


  • Examination and review copies will be available fall 2017 in watermarked pdf format.



LONE STAR LITERARY LIFE   copyright © 2015–18 Paragraph Ranch LLC  •  All rights reserved  •  CONTACT US




Twig’s Top Ten Bestsellers

March 2018

What are Texans reading these days, you ask? Lone Star Lit’s newest regular feature is a monthly list of trending titles at the Twig Book Shop, a leading independent bookseller in San Antonio. Click on any title for the Buy link. And we'll also include a hotlink to related content in Lone Star Literary Life.


1 Elizabeth Crook, The Which Way Tree   978-0316434959 (reviewed in Lone Star Lit Jan. 21, 2018)

2 Jeremy Banas, Bill Jones and Kit Goldsbury, Pearl: A History of San Antonio’s Iconic Beer 9781625858283

3 Neil Gaiman, Norse Mythology 978-0393609097

4  Min Jin Lee, Pachinko 978-1455563937

5  Rupi Kaur, Milk and Honey 978-1449483135

6 Lynn Maverick Denzer and Maury Maverick, Old Villita and La Villita Continues 978-1609405281

7 André Aciman and Armie Hammer, Call Me By Your Name  978-0374118044

8 Bryce Milligan, ed., Literary San Antonio 978-0875656878 (reviewed in Lone Star Lit Feb. 25, 2018)

9 Chelsea Clinton, She Persisted Around the World  978-0525516996

10 Ernest Cline, Ready Player One  978-0307887436





2.11.18  Panther City Review, an annually published print journal, is seeking creative non-fiction, novel excerpts, poetry, short stories, short plays/screenplays, as well as cover art, for the 2018 issue centered on the theme of “Wisdom.” The deadline for submission is Sunday, April 29, 2018, by 11:59pm. For guidelines, please visit www.panthercityreview.com.





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The El Paso Red Flame Gas Station by TJ. Reeder Archuleta Visit with the author April 17–26, 2018

4/17/18 Promo The Page Unbound

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A Borrowed Dream by Amanda Cabot Visit with Amanda through Apr. 21, 2018

4/15/18 Review Missus Gonzo

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