Plus a new novel from Charles Lynn Russell

When the Cactus Blooms launches a new ranching-family series.

 

“Texas Population: Still Growing and Increasingly Diverse” by Steve Murdock and Michael Cline is one of the featured articles in the new 2020-2021 edition of the Texas Almanac, published by the Texas State Historical Association ($24.95 paperback, $39.95 hardcover). By 2050, they predict, the racial makeup of the state will be 42.7 percent Hispanic, 28.6 percent white, 12.7 percent black, 12.2 percent Asian, and 3.8 percent other.

 

Another piece discusses the history and influence of Texas immigrants from India. Texas has the fourth largest concentration of Asian Indians in the US, behind California, New York, and New Jersey.

 

 

One major change in this year’s almanac is that “A Brief Sketch of Texas History” (which was quite outdated) has been replaced with a helpful list of articles on Texas history that can be accessed online from the Handbook of Texas at tshaonline.org/handbook.

 

 

Upbeat Novel: I suspect there may be a little bit of autobiography in Charles Lynn Russell’s sixth novel, When the Cactus Blooms ($15 paperback). Much of the action takes place at a small-town high school in far West Texas, near Alpine, and among the leading characters are a football coach, a high school principal, and a school superintendent. Charlie Russell filled all of those roles at one time or another during a thirty-four-year career in education.

 

Now he lives on a farm near Abilene and self-publishes upbeat novels that continue to draw more and more readers as fans. Certainly I am one. Russell is a good storyteller, creating characters that you really care about. Not perfect characters, by any means, but even with their flaws you find them compelling and want to see how they turn out.

 

 

At the heart of When the Cactus Blooms is sixteen-year-old Eric Sager, who’s been a problem kid in San Antonio. His father dumps Eric at his grandparents’ ranch, hoping they can do something with him. Eric can’t wait to run away, especially when his grandfather is a mean slave-driver, forcing him to dig post holes, harping on the length of his hair, and never complimenting him on anything.

 

His grandmother, however, may be the first person who has actually shown any love toward him, and gradually her influence begins to rub off. The football coach and the high school principal—and the principal’s daughter—also take an interest in Eric, as does an older girl who is a very capable and insightful ranch hand. 

 

The reader watches the transformation of a young boy from a self-centered brat into a decent human being. And the end of this story is no doubt just the beginning of the next one. When the Cactus Blooms launches a new ranching-family series. I can’t wait for the next episode.

 

Russell’s book is available online at texasstartrading.com.

 

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