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Novel pits Pancho Villa against railroad baron


Winston Groom, the best-selling author of Forrest Gump, sets his new historical novel in El Paso and Mexico and pits revolutionary general Pancho Villa against an American railroad baron.


El Paso (W.W. Norton, $27.99 hardcover) is a fast-moving 477-page epic that mixes in true-life historical figures, like future general George Patton and cowboy movie star Tom Mix, with fictional characters as Villa wages war on Americans and Mexicans alike in Northern Mexico in 1916.


The story revolves around the fictional Shaughnessy family. The flamboyant Col. John Shaughnessy has turned over most of his struggling railroad empire to even-tempered son Arthur, freeing up the colonel to host lavish parties on his yacht and tend to his vast ranching empire in Mexico. But when the ranch comes under attack from Villa — and two children are abducted — the whole Shaughnessy family, including Arthur, becomes involved.


The colonel and Arthur lead a posse to track down Villa and rescue the children as the revolutionary army takes refuge in the mountains after a series of defeats by the Mexican federales. Meanwhile, an aspiring matador whose wife was kidnapped has also joined the hunt and eventually will face a seemingly impossible live-or-die bullfight wickedly conceived by Villa. A German spy figures into the story as well. War is raging in Europe in 1916, but the United States has stayed out of it so far. The spy’s secret mission is to keep America preoccupied with the Mexican revolution so it won’t get involved in the war across the ocean.


And there’s much more: A vicious bear, rudely awakened from hibernation, attacks Arthur Shaughnessy. Arthur’s longtime best friend betrays him. An American communist activist sympathetic to Villa’s cause comes to question his brutal tactics. A teen-age girl kidnap victim narrowly escapes from a jaguar and teaches Villa how to play chess and to read. And what do Tom Mix and George Patton have to do with all of this? Well, there’s plenty of action in Groom’s first novel in nearly twenty years. Groom also writes nonfiction, focusing primarily on American military history.


Texas horror: An anthology of Road Kill: Texas Horror by Texas Writers, edited by E. R. Bills and Bret McCormick (Eakin Press, $16.95 paperback), includes seventeen short stories by Texas fiction writers. The biggest name in the lineup is Joe R. Lansdale, a prolific master storyteller from Nacogdoches who contributed a tale about an elderly couple who have a rendezvous with Death. She wants to go first, but so does he. Is it possible they might meet Death together on a stormy night? Would Death be that accommodating?


Plenty of chilling tales here for those dreary winter evenings.


Glenn Dromgoole’s latest book is West Texas Stories. Contact him at g.dromgoole@suddenlink.net.


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

Pulpwood Queen's Girlfriend Weekend wraps up Jan. 15 in Nacogdoches


The annual Pulpwood Queen’s Girlfriend Weekend returns to Nacogdoches January 12–15, 2017, with the theme “Diamonds Are a Gir;s Best Friend.”  >>READ MORE



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Max Krochmal

Blue Texas: The Making of a Multiracial Democratic Coalition in the Civil Rights Era

University of North Carolina Press

Hardcover, 978-1-4696-2675-8 (also available as an e-book), 552 pgs., $39.95

November 14, 2016


“This book is about the other Texas … the hidden Lone Star tradition of community organizing, civil rights, trade unionism, and liberal, multiracial coalition building.”


Does this Texas sound familiar to you? It doesn’t sound familiar to most of us, but it should.


In the 1930s, against the backdrop of the Great Depression, and inspired by the New Deal, African Americans, Mexican Americans, and mostly Anglo labor organizers and community activists in Texas began a decades-long journey toward each other. Each group began individually, in their several neighborhoods: the Mexican American pecan shellers striking in San Antonio; Anglo labor striking Ford in Dallas; Smith v. Allright, in which the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the white primary, was born in Houston. Eventually the separate groups reached tentatively across the color line and found they were stronger together. For most it wasn’t about ideology, but about living conditions. This journey culminated in a multiracial coalition able to elect liberal politicians in support of a broad civil rights program.


So, what happened? >>READ MORE


Jon Land

Strong Cold Dead: A Caitlin Strong Novel

Forge Books

Hardcover, 978-0-7653-3513-5 (also available as an e-book), 352 pgs., $26.99; October 4, 2016


“Nature takes care of its own, Ranger, and we are its own.” —White Eagle, Comanche shaman


Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong is on desk duty after a dustup involving Mexican cartel apprentices in San Antonio, when trouble between a drilling company and Native American protesters sends her into the Texas Hill Country to investigate a mutilated body discovered just off the reservation. History is preparing to repeat itself as Caitlin returns to where the Strong family legend was birthed. The case has strong echoes of similar circumstances investigated in 1874 by Caitlin’s ancestor, the first Ranger Strong.


Strong Cold Dead: A Caitlin Strong Novel is the eighth installment in Jon Land’s mystery-suspense series starring the fifth-generation Texas Ranger. It can be read as a standalone, but I recommend beginning at the beginning. The backstories of the recurring characters, and history of their relationships to each other, will make understanding the underlying currents easier.


A hallmark of this series is Land’s use of Texas Ranger history, skillfully woven into the present-day tale. Land names the prolific Texas historian and author Mike Cox in the acknowledgments, and quotes T. R. Fehrenbach and the Bullock Texas State History Museum’s “The Story of Texas” in epigraphs introducing each part of the narrative. >>READ MORE

LONE STAR LISTENS interviews   >> archive

1.15.2017 Journalist and author S. C. Gwynne on football and other Texas passions


This is a rare weekend for Texas football fans—two Lone Star state teams competing in the NFL Playoffs. In a nod to one of the state’s favorite pastimes, this week’s Lone Star Listens features author S. C. Gwynne, journalist, editor, and historian. His most recent book, The Perfect Pass: American Genius and the Reinvention of Football, celebrates the men who reinvented football, including former Texas Tech coach Mike Leach. Gwynne talked with us about his books via email last week.


LONE STAR LITERARY LIFE: Sam, you’re a come-here, not born-here, Texan. What brought you to the Lone Star State?


S. C. GWYNNE: Yup, I’m a Connecticut Yankee who went to boarding school in Pennsylvania, college in New Jersey, and grad school in Maryland. I adopted the place, or it adopted me, I am not sure which. I came to Austin in 1994 as Time Magazine’s Southwest bureau chief. As the years went by Time kept trying to get me to move and I kept saying no and eventually I went to work as executive editor at Texas Monthly, which was an excellent career move.  >>READ MORE


Texas's only statewide, weekly calendar of book events

Bookish Texas event highlights  1.15.2017
>> GO this week   Michelle Newby, Contributing Editor


SPECIAL EVENTS THIS WEEK: Nacogdoches, Houston
  • Pulpwood Queen Girlfriend Weekend, Nacogdoches, January 12-15
    12th Annual MLK Symposium, Dallas, January 16
  • The Tom Bird Method Retreat: Write Your Book in a Weekend, Houston, January 19-21
  • Bookworm Festival, Houston, January 21
DALLAS  Mon., Jan. 16  The Wild Detectives, David Eric Tomlinson reads and signs The Midnight Man, 7:30PMThe Wild Detectives, David Eric Tomlinson reads and signs The Midnight Man, 7:30PMFORT WORTH  Tues., Jan. 17  The Dock Bookshop, Fort Worth Poetry Slam and Open Mic featuring four-time World Poetry Slam Champion Ed Mabrey, 8PMThe Dock Bookshop, Fort Worth Poetry Slam and Open Mic featuring four-time World Poetry Slam Champion Ed Mabrey, 8PMAUSTIN  Wed., Jan. 18  Long Center, an evening with, Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson, award winning- astrophysicist, author, and host of FOX’s Cosmos, 7:30PMDALLAS  Wed., Jan. 18  Parish Episcopal School, David Smick discusses and signs The Great Equalizier: How Main Street Capitalism Can Create an Economy for Everyone (a DFW World Affairs Council event), 6:30PMALSO SIGNING  Thurs., Jan. 19  Stonebriar Country Club (a DFW World Affairs Council event), 7:30AMSAN ANTONIO  Fri., Jan. 20, The Twig Book Shop, Emily Esfahani Smith discusses and signs The Power of Meaning: Crafting a Life That Matters, 6PM ALSO SIGNING  AUSTIN  Sun., Jan. 22, BookPeople, 3PMAUSTIN  Sat., Jan. 21  Resistencia Books, readings from the 7th edition of the Barrio Writers Anthology, 2PMMOODY  Sat., Jan. 21, Mother Neff State Park, Arts in the Parks: Haiku Hike, 2PMAUSTIN  Sun., Jan. 22  Malvern Books, a reading from acclaimed poets Steve McCaffery and Karen Mac Cormack, 3PM

News Briefs 1.15.17

Writers Resist events slated for Jan. 15, in five Texas cities: Austin, Dallas, El Paso, Houston, San Antonio; also Houston, Jan. 20


Writers Resist, a literary collective born of the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election that publishes creative expressions of resistance by diverse writers and artists, has prompted the grass-roots organization of events around the nation, including those organized in Austin, Houston, And San Antonio for Sun., Jan. 15. >>READ MORE


Barnes & Noble Launches Seventh Annual
“My Favorite Teacher Contest”

Hundreds of Stores Nationwide to Honor Local Winners


Retail bookseller Barnes & Noble has announced the start of the 2017 “Barnes & Noble My Favorite Teacher Contest,” which for the past seven years has provided middle and high school students the opportunity to tell their communities how much they appreciate their teachers.


Students can nominate their teacher by writing essays, poems, or thank-you letters that share how their teacher has influenced their life and why they appreciate and admire them.  Participating schools collect the essays and submit them to their local Barnes & Noble store, for consideration. Entries are judged on the compelling nature of the teacher’s inspiring qualities, the sincerity of the student’s appreciation and the quality of expression and writing.  >>READ MORE


ConDFW set for Feb. 10-12 in Fort Worth


ConDFW XVI will be held February 10-12, 2017, at the Radisson Hotel/Fossil Creek, Fort Worth. Guests of honor will include author Rachel Caine (above, left) and artist R. Cat Conrad (right).


At the annual literary science fiction and fantasy convention, attendees can mingle with author and artist guests, attend panel discussions and readings led by guest authors, get books signed, look at and shop in a dealer's room with books, art, games, clothing, weapons, and other items, donate used books to charity (and get some others in return), play games (both tabletop and live-action), or just hang out and talk to guests and attendees.


ConDFW is a production of the Texas Speculative Fiction Association.


Texas Book Festival announces dates for 2017 weekend; submissions now open


AUSTIN — The Texas Book Festival says its 2016 Festival Weekend was one of the most successful on record, with 50,000 attendees coming together on November 5 and 6 in the largest celebration of books and literacy in the Festival’s history. The Festival will return for its 22nd year on November 4 and 5, 2017, and will once again be held in and around the Texas State Capitol in downtown Austin.  >>READ MORE


Lone Star Literary Life's GO Calendar updated with 2017 annual event dates


As soon as organizers return to their desks after the start of each new year, annual book events start populating their Facebook pages and Twitter feeds with dates readers and writers are eager to mark on their own calendars.


We’ve saved you some of the work — compiling a list of key recurring events in the state by month, along with locations and precise dates as soon as we learn them. This week alone, we've added and updated more than a dozen. Check them out at LoneStarLiterary.com/Go, and bookmark the calendar for use in planning your travel, book promotions, and visits to more than 100 readings and events each week, statewide.






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A MOONBOW NIGHT by Laura Frantz


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