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Above: A water lily variety named for Elmer Kelton blooms in San Angelo's renowned lily pond. Right: Elmer Kelton mural. Below: Kelton statue at library (all photos this page courtesy San Angelo CVB)
Below: the Cactus Book Shop (all photos this page courtesy San Angelo CVB)
Below: statue of girl reading, at public library; right, Stephens Central Library (all photos this page courtesy San Angelo CVB)
TEXAS TOP 10 BOOKISH DESTINATIONS 2015
As a reader you can’t help but admire a city that showcases a mural, a statue and a lily for its best known author. Elmer Kelton (1926-2009) wrote more than 40 books, including The Time it Never Rained, The Wolf and the Buffalo, The Day the Cowboys Quit, and The Good Old Boys, which became a Turner Network movie directed by and starring Tommy Lee Jones.
Kelton was named the Best Western Writer of All Time by his peers in the Western Writers of America. The WWA voted him seven Spur awards for best Western novel of the year and the career Saddleman Award, and he received four Western Heritage Wrangler awards from the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Center.
The San Angelo environs make for fertile ground for writing. Kelton started his career as a journalist at the San Angelo Standard-Times in 1949. Legendary newspaper columnist Sam Pendergrast, who included a chili recipe in his obituary, also spent time at the Standard-Times, and chronicled his time in West Texas with by his account 26 books. Amarilloan Mike Cox, author of 20 nonfiction books including a two-volume history of the Texas Rangers, also did a stint as a Standard-Times reporter. So did Ava E. Mills, editor of the 1999 volume West Texans Remember the Home Front.
Fellow San Angeloan Ross McSwain, who wrote eight books of nonfiction, contributed his column “Out Yonder” to the newspaper for more than three decades. Midland Spur award winner Patrick Dearen, who grew up in nearby Sterling City, also got his start at the Standard-Times. Dearen has noted the writing talents of current Standard-Times columnist Rick Smith, who is also a playwright. Smith has been a columnist for the daily newspaper since the seventies. Former San Angelo Police Chief Russell S. Smith is an author in the true crime genre; his latest work is Women, Whiskey and Sin.
Literary travelers can quickly get up to speed with the talents of San Angelo’s notable authors by visiting the Cactus Book Shop in the historic district of San Angelo, which features a vibrant and bustling downtown of shops and restaurants. At the Cactus, a one-of-a-kind bookstore, you’ll find an extensive collection of Texana and Western Americana. The Cactus notes on its website that it proudly offers the largest collection of Elmer Kelton books anywhere.
A few blocks down you can also enjoy Eggemeyer’s General Store, where you can browse cookbooks, experience a wine tasting, sample homemade candies, and peruse unique items of home décor or culinary pursuits.
A few years back, San Angelo repurposed an old, vacant Hemphill-Wells department store to be its state-of-the-art downtown Stephens Central Library of the Tom Green County Library system. The Stephens Library has recently been selected to be a part of a pilot program called The Edge Initiative. Funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, it was developed by a coalition of library and local government organizations.
Hungry while you’re reading? You can also enjoy a meal while you’re at the Stephens—in the Off the Pages Bistro located on the premises.
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