Connecting readers, books, authors, writers, publishers, booksellers, and others interested in Texas books and letters
Three friends who write under the pen name of Miles Arceneaux have turned out their third murder mystery set on the Texas Gulf Coast.
Ransom Island (Stephen F. Austin University Press, $19.95 paperback) features Rupert Sweetwater, owner of the Shady Palm Bar and Grill on Ransom Island, across the bridge from Aransas Pass.
The story is fiction, but in the introduction Arceneaux notes that Ransom Island is a real place, and at one time it did have a beer joint and dance hall and guest cabins. It was “rough-and-ready and had its share of scandalous characters.”
But after a hurricane wiped out the narrow bridge between Aransas Pass and Ransom Island in the 1950s, the island quickly declined, and today it is deserted.
Arceneaux brings it back to life in the novel, set in the island’s heyday, around 1953. Galveston gangsters, a runaway girl, a crazy beach hermit named Barefoot, a beer joint full of lovable losers, and Duke Ellington’s band populate the pages of Ransom Island. And, of course, there is murder and a gangster plot that could be the death of the place.
It all comes together in a highly readable, entertaining tale that introduces a boy named Charlie Sweetwater and his older brother, Johnny. And so, in that regard, Ransom Island becomes a prequel to the two earlier Arceneaux books, Thin Slice of Life and LaSalle’s Ghost, both featuring Charlie Sweetwater.
Thin Slice of Life was the first book, and it took the three friends—Brent Douglass, John T. Davis, and James R. Dennis—about 25 years and several massive rewrites to finish it. The sequel, LaSalle’s Ghost, came together a lot quicker, as did Ransom Island.
If you haven’t read any of the Arceneaux books, you might want to read them in chronological order, beginning with Ransom Island, then Thin Slice of Life and LaSalle’s Ghost. But whatever order you choose, you’re in for some good reading.
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Corpus Christi: Alan Lessoff, a former history professor at Texas A&M University Corpus Christi, has written Where Texas Meets the Sea: Corpus Christi and Its History (University of Texas Press, $29.95 hardcover).
The 360-page urban history deals not so much with the chronological history of Corpus Christi; rather it examines concepts and aspects of the city’s history— such as ethnic diversity, public art, tourism, and preservation vs. development— that are distinctive to Corpus Christi itself but also relate to similar issues facing mid-sized cities everywhere.
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Glenn Dromgoole is co-author of 101 Essential Texas Books. Contact him at email@example.com.
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Kathy and Brendan Reichs, the mother-and-son duo behind the best-selling young adult series Virals
The North Texas Teen Book Festival, a free, one-day festival highlighting young adult and middle grades literature, will be held Sat., March 7.
DONNA WALKER-NIXON et al.,
eds., Her Texas
426 pp., $29.95, March 1, 2015
Her Texas collects the work of a who’s who of creative Texas women into a beautiful anthology of written and visual art. Each editor provides an introduction with her own distinctive voice that collectively function as a prelude to the work contained therein, microcosms of the macro-macrocosm of Texas.
“Creative Nonfiction” appropriately begins with the inspiration for this project and grande dame of Texas literary criticism, the late Lou Halsell Rodenberger. Donna M. Johnson’s “Mockingbird Lane” reminds us that there are many ways to be absent; “The Man at the End of the Hall” is Guida Jackson’s hymn to the plains and the “...whining, twanging, nerve-jangling never-ending wind”; Christine Warren’s “Let Her Roll” is a paean to the Guadalupe River in a time when outlaw country “sounded the way Texas felt.” >> read more
2.22.15 | SCOTT BLACKWOOD
See How Small
Zadie, Elizabeth, and Meredith are closing up the ice cream shop where they work when the men with guns appear. After, the men set the shop ablaze. “It grew hot, dark and wet like first things.” Texans will recognize this scenario immediately. Four teenage girls were raped and murdered and the shop set on fire in an Austin I Can’t Believe It’s Yogurt shop in 1991. In a bit of speculative fiction that borrows from historical events, Scott Blackwood creates a cast of haunted characters: the mother of two of the girls, the firefighter who found the bodies, a regular customer of the ice cream shop, a reporter, a suspect and—reminding me a bit of The Lovely Bones—the girls themselves. >> more
Center is the author of five books about love and family. Her novels have been reviewed in People, USA Today, and Redbook and have been optioned for movies. She talked with LSLL about growing up in Houston, her Texas writing influences, and the rapidly changing nature of publishing and writing.
LSLL: With so many subcategories of fiction on bookstore shelves these days, how would you describe yours?
Katherine Center: Technically, I'm in the category of Women's Fiction, but I really do a hybrid of literary fiction, women's fiction, and romantic comedy. I think of my books as "bittersweet comedies about love and family." My main characters are always women and, more than that, the books are written in a first-person, confessional, intimate voice that's mean to get as close as possible to the way women talk to each other. >> more
I am a mythical unicorn. A majestic creature who prances on sparkly rainbows and grants author wishes with my magic horn. I sleep in a bed made of dollar bills and form rejection letters. I make my coffee from the tears of writers who will never sell their work. I am a literary agent.
Or, you know, I’m just a woman in her mid-thirties who loves books and makes a small pittance helping talented authors find the perfect publisher for their work.
Too many authors think literary agents live behind some veil of mysticism. They know they want an agent, but don’t really have a clear idea of what it is that we do. So allow me to pull back the curtain for a minute.
Former Texas Highways photographer and photo editor J. Griffis Smith shares a fun selfie from the floor of the House of Representatives Tuesday morning, Feb. 24, after being honored for his thirty years of amazing photos in Texas Highways, the official travel magazine of Texas. State Rep. Richard Pena Raymond (right) sponsored House Resolution 532. As ”the National Photographer of Texas,” Smith has offered “compelling images that introduced readers to every corner of the Lone Star State and inspired many to hit the road themselves,” said Raymond. Smith’s work is showcased the book On the Road With Texas Highways: A Tribute to True Texas (Texas A&M University Press, 2014) and an accompanying exhibit opened at the Capitol Visitors Center Sat., Feb. 28.
The beer—and the Austin evening—were cold but the room and the conversation was warm at the second annual TBF <3s Indies party Mon., Feb. 23, at Austin’s Cheer Up Charlies. Texas independent publishers of books and journals displayed their wares, talked with fans, and sold books among the packed space.
View the full story and slide show of the event here.
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