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How could more than 900 people line up and drink a poisoned punch, knowing they would die?
In The Road to Jonestown: Jim Jones and Peoples Temple (Simon & Schuster, $28 hardcover), Fort Worth author Jeff Guinn takes an in-depth look at the people and events leading up to the mass suicide, or massacre, in the South American jungle village of Jonestown, Guyana, in November 1978.
Not everyone who drank the punch did it willingly, Guinn points out. About 300 of the victims were children and another 300 or so were elderly. A few escaped the compound before and during the mass poisoning, which was recorded on audiotape. At one point, Jones could be heard trying to convince his screaming wife, Marceline, to drink the poison. After the poisonings, Jones either shot himself or had someone do it.
The Jonestown story revolves around James Warren “Jim” Jones and the Peoples Temple church that he founded and led, first in Indiana, then California, and finally Guyana.
“Jim Jones was undeniably a man of great gifts,” Guinn writes, “and one who, for much of his life and ministry, achieved admirable results on behalf of the downtrodden. Yet he was also a demagogue who ultimately betrayed his followers whether he always intended to or not.”
Guinn shows how Jones built his church into a cult and gained political influence by fighting racism, injustice, and inequality. An avowed socialist and Marxist, Jones grew increasingly paranoid in his long, ranting sermons, warning his parishioners of looming concentration camps, nuclear holocaust, and other envisioned disasters.
In Guyana, he promised them, they would build an idealistic agricultural ministry that would help feed hungry people throughout South America. Instead, Guinn notes, the members who followed him there found themselves living in an overcrowded jungle village where they were overworked, underfed, and subjected to nightly “sermons” that would go on for hours, predicting “imminent slaughter by U.S. government agents, Guyanese soldiers, and mercenaries.”
As the jungle experiment floundered, Jones tried unsuccessfully to get permission from Russia to move his cult there.
The fatal ending came on Saturday, Nov. 18, 1978. Congressman Leo Ryan had been to Jonestown to investigate whether cult members were being held against their will. As he and his entourage were boarding a plane to leave at a nearby airstrip, Jones’s henchmen gunned down Ryan and four others and wounded three more.
In the compound, Jones told his followers, “We are not committing suicide. It’s a revolutionary act. We can’t go back. They won’t leave us alone. They’re now going back to tell more lies, which means more congressmen. And there’s no way, no way we can survive.”
Jeff Guinn, author of twenty books ranging from a biography of notorious murderer Charles Manson to a fictional autobiography of Santa Claus, has been named the A.C. Greene Award winner for 2017. He will be honored at the West Texas Book Festival in September, in Abilene.
Glenn Dromgoole’s latest book is West Texas Stories. Contact him at email@example.com.
In the 2016 IPPY awards announced last week, presented by the Independent Book Publishers’ Association, two Texas books have garnered awards.
SILVER: Foy: On the Road to Lost, by Gordon Atkinson (Material Media)
SILVER: Vagabonding with Kids: How One Couple Embraced an Unconventional Life to Work Remotely and Show Their Kids the World, by A.K. Turner (Brown Books Publishing Group)
(Information from The Independent Book Publishers’ Association)
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Foy: On the Road to Lost
Paperback, 978-0-9967-5355-5, (also available as an e-book), 194 pgs., $15.95
March 1, 2017
Minister Foy Davis is having a bad week. His wife, and mother of his daughters, has served him with divorce papers, then two days later, in a more or less mutual decision (“like two lovers staring at each other and saying, almost simultaneously, We need to talk”), he’s been removed and/or resigned as pastor of a Baptist church in San Antonio. Foy’s midlife crisis of faith has been building throughout his adult life. He wonders what it would be like to be “a regular person.” As he’s leaving the church for the last time, he reaches for a vial of rose oil used for anointing the sick, gifted to him by an Episcopal-priest friend, and anoints his own forehead.
Foy sets out to discover what he suspects he might’ve been missing. In New Orleans. During Mardi Gras. He may even take up cigars. Emotionally volatile—swinging from anger to sorrow and back again—Foy is weary of being responsible for his congregation (for their souls, no less), and thinks he’d like to be “mildly empathetic, across a vast emotional chasm,” instead. He has “fantasized about … absolute freedom” for years, but in the event, he may find that it really is just another word for nothing left to lose. >>READ MORE
Of Bulletins and Booze: A Newsman’s Story of Recovery
Texas Tech University Press
Hardcover, 978-0-8967-2990-2, 248 pgs., $26.95
March 31, 2017
“. . . striving for success can be as intoxicating as the highest-proof booze and equally susceptible to addiction . . . ”
Bob Horton grew up outside of Lubbock in dusty West Texas, the son of dirt farmers trying to eke a living out of cotton. An ambitious, smart, mischievous child whose competitive spirit was nurtured by his mother, Horton was encouraged to excel. “Achieve little victories and people expect bigger things,” Horton writes of his school days. “They speak about how you have potential and can achieve even more.” >>READ MORE
SOCIAL ISSUES / RELIGION & SPIRITUALITY
Alan Graham (with Lauren Hall)
Welcome Homeless: One Man’s Journey of Discovering the Meaning of Home
Paperback, 978-0-7180-8655-8, (also available as an e-book, an audio book, and on Audible), 240 pgs., $16.99
March 7, 2017
‘Notice it doesn’t say, “Feed the hungry, unless you think he might just have the munchies … Or, “Clothe the naked, unless he doth get drunk on Jack Daniel’s.”’
Alan Graham was struck by inspiration in 1998: food trucks. He envisioned a truck to feed Austin’s homeless where they live. Graham recruited five friends (the “six-pack”), and they pooled their money to buy an old catering truck. Inspired by God’s choice of Mary, an impoverished, uneducated peasant, and the example of Francis of Assisi, Graham understood that it’s about “communion through community, and community through connection,” and “bridging the gap between the divinity of God and dignity of man.” New, warm socks and a choice of Popsicle flavors are useful for this. >>READ MORE
4.23.17 Private studio casita guesthouse in downtown Santa Fe, for short or longer term rental, equipped with Wi-Fi, printer, washer/dryer, plus more. Finish a project, or begin something new. Enclosed coyote-fenced patio—secluded yet near museums, restaurants, and the natural beauty of NM. Proprietor is a writer who knows what is needed for a perfect retreat. Website: www.marshapincus.com. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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Lubbock poet Chen Chen has been featured on the PBS Newshour and in OUT magazine. He is the author of When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities, winner of the A. Poulin, Jr. Poetry Prize from BOA Editions, and a Kundiman and Lambda Literary Fellow. His work has appeared in publications such as Poetry, The Massachusetts Review, The Academy of American Poets Poem-a-Day, Best of the Net, and The Best American Poetry. He spoke with us via email last week. Chen’s poem "Things Stuck in Other Things Where They Don’t Belong” is reprinted following this interview, with the author's permission.
LONE STAR LITERARY LIFE: Chen, you were born in China, and raised in China until you were three. What brought you to the U.S., and how has being an immigrant affected your life?
CHEN CHEN: My father decided he wanted to study in the States. He started off as a graduate student in religion at Texas Christian University and then eventually switched to education. He lived in Texas on his own for a bit, before my mother and I came. It was a difficult decision for my mother, since she loved the big network of family and friends she had in China—coming to the United States meant leaving behind a whole life. As for the second question, I can say that being an immigrant has deeply affected my sense of family structure...most of my extended family still lives in China. But really, I’m not sure I can answer that question in any satisfying way here; I think I wrote my first book in order to answer that question. I’m still answering that question. Basically, being an immigrant has affected every aspect of my life. Understanding the specifics of different stories of immigration is so important. I wish the phrase “the immigrant experience” didn’t exist, because it seems silly to me, this idea that there’s some general or monolithic experience of something so complicated. >>READ MORE
ABILENE Mon., April 24 Abilene Public Library, Texas Author Series: Mike Cox will discuss Texas Disasters, 12PMAbilene Public Library, Texas Author Series: Mike Cox will discuss Texas Disasters, 12PMAUSTIN Mon., April 24 BookPeople, Founder of Whole Foods Market JOHN MACKEY speaking & signing The Whole Foods Diet: The Lifesaving Plan for Health and Longevity, 7PMBookPeople, Founder of Whole Foods Market JOHN MACKEY speaking & signing The Whole Foods Diet: The Lifesaving Plan for Health and Longevity, 7PMHOUSTON Mon., April 24 Brazos Bookstore, Adam Bray discusses and signs STAR WARS: THE VISUAL ENCYCLOPEDIA, 7PMALSO SIGNING IN AUSTIN wed., April 26, BookPeople, 6PMDALLAS Thurs., April 27 The Wild Detectives, A Literary Conversation: Gender and the Fantastic in Hispanic Studies with Professor Patricia Garcia, 7:30PMDALLAS Fri., April 28 Winspear Opera House, Arts & Letters Live hosts writer David Sedaris, 7:30PMEL PASO Sat., Apr. 29 Rock House Cafe and Gallery, National Poetry Month reading: BorderSenses Presents The Barbed Wire Open Mic Series featuring Poets from the Tumblewords Project, 8PMHOUSTON Sat., Apr. 29 Alley Theatre, Glasstire OFF ROAD hosts a conversation between photographer Catherine Opie and writer Eileen Myles, 4PMAUSTIN Sun., Apr. 30 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Amy Jackson reads and signs Cassandra and the Night Sky, 1PMSAN MARCOS Sun., Apr. 30 TSU Alkek Library, The Wittliff Collections presents a Sandra Cisneros reading, interview, and book signing, 2PM
by Kristine Hall
Lone Star Book Blog Tour coordinator Kristine Hall has been in San Antonio this week at the Texas Library Association conference. (Left:: Kristine Hall scores a copy of DiAnn Mills’s newest, Deep Extraction.) Check out her full photo gallery here: >>READ MORE
by Michelle Newby
Lone Star Book Reviews coordinator Michelle Newby covered the San Antonio Book Festival earlier this month (Left: Poets Jenny Browne, Laurie Ann Guerrero, and Naomi Shihab Nye). Check out her full photo gallery here: >>READ MORE
Lone Star Lit’s second annual Texas Readers’ Favorite Bookstores voting will be held May 1 through May 18, 2017. Readers, vote as often as you wish for your Favorite Texas Bookstore.
We’ll announce the Top 40 finalists on May 7; then, the Top 20 finalists on May 14. Voting begins May 1, 2017! >>READ MORE
AUSTIN — The Texas Book Festival announced the winners of its 2016-17 Texas Library Grants at the Texas Library Association conference in San Antonio today. Forty-four public libraries across 35 Texas counties received grants totaling $100,450 — the largest amount the organization has awarded in its 21-year history of giving. >>READ MORE
AUSTIN—The Long Center for the Performing Arts will host internationally acclaimed author Neil Gaiman at the Long Center stage for one night only, July 6 at 8 pm in Dell Hall.
“I make things up and write them down” is the way Neil Gaiman describes his varied art. Today, as one of the most celebrated, best-selling writers of our time, Gaiman bends genres while reaching audiences of all ages. In this live event, “An Evening with Neil Gaiman,” he will tell stories and read stories, answer questions, and in his own words “amaze, befuddle and generally delight. It will be fun and odd and not like any other evening with Neil Gaiman.” >>READ MORE
The Half Pint Library program is a book drive hosted each year by Texas-based Half Price Books to collect and distribute children’s books to those in need. Books donated through the program provide an escape from the challenges faced by children, while helping to boost literacy skills outside of school. In many cases, children are getting their first book through the Half Pint Library program. The drive accepts any type of children’s book, including Spanish language books, as long as they are in good condition. The program is celebrating its nineteenth year in 2017 and has collected more than 2 million books for pediatric patients, community centers, special schools and many more children in need. >>READ MORE
The Texas Mountain Trail Writers group invites both beginning to advanced authors to join them for a one-day retreat at the Indian Lodge in the historicDavis Mountain State Park in scenic Big Bend area, Sat., April 29, 2017. It will mark the group’s twenty-fifth year of hosting the retreat.
Presenters of this year’s retreat are Barbara Brannon and Kay Ellington of Lubbock, Texas, editors of Lone Star Literary Life and coauthors of the Paragraph Ranch series of novels. The novels have been praised by readers for realistic characters, authentic West Texas settings, and interesting plots. >>READ MORE
From the spur of Texas’s boot-heel to the tip of the toe, we’ve traveled the state in search of some delectable destinations for book lovers. Check out all ten on the map as you plan your literary travels! >>READ MORE
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
Available in trade paper, library hardcover, and ebook Fall 2017
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.
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