Insight and Books


ANALYSIS: Why police bodycam footage doesn’t always clear things up

Stephon Clark, an African-American man, was killed by Sacramento police in his grandmother’s backyard last month, setting off protests and conflict over the police’s actions. Police initially said they thought Clark was armed. But after the shooting, the officers found no weapon on Clark, only an iPhone. The city’s police chief has been credited with responding quickly to the protests...
Time travel: Let’s go back to 1973 Austin Artists Market on the Drag

Time travel: Let’s go back to 1973 Austin Artists Market on the Drag

Reader Sean Massey was going through a stack of family photos and found a series of undated black-and-white images related to his father, Austin counterculture jeweler Jerry Massey. Two possibilities for location presented themselves right away: what is now known as the Austin Renaissance Market on the Drag, or possibly the City Wide Garage Sale at the since-demolished City Coliseum. The former seemed...
Hugo Award winner makes connection between sci-fi and rock ‘n’ roll

Hugo Award winner makes connection between sci-fi and rock ‘n’ roll

The mothership connection is clear: Where there’s rock ’n’ roll, science fiction isn’t far away, as Hugo Award winner Jason Heller deftly demonstrates in “Strange Stars: David Bowie, Pop Music, and the Decade Sci-Fi Exploded.” The author was born in 1972, a couple of months after David Bowie’s landmark album “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the...
She’s a TV star, but she’s still grappling with her parents’ deportation

She’s a TV star, but she’s still grappling with her parents’ deportation

The stories of migrant children — separated from their parents at the border, detained in makeshift facilities — has stirred something in all of us, but for Diane Guerrero, the feeling has been especially agonizing. When she was 14, Guerrero, the actress best known for her roles in “Orange Is the New Black” and “Jane the Virgin,” was separated from her immigrant...
Cafe serving cookbook-inspired food and drinks opens today at new Central Library

Cafe serving cookbook-inspired food and drinks opens today at new Central Library

Before the new library opened downtown, one of the most exciting proposed elements was the Cookbook Cafe, a cookbook-inspired eatery on the bottom floor. The books that line the shelves of the Cookbook Cafe, the restaurant inside downtown’s Central Library that opens today, are from the personal collection of food writer Virginia B. Wood, who died earlier this year...
For summer vacation, the best audiobooks are about long, strange trips

For summer vacation, the best audiobooks are about long, strange trips

Need an audiobook for your summer road trip? Here are some ideas. “The Dog of the South” by Charles Portis Recorded Books. Unabridged, 8 hours. Published almost 40 years ago, “The Dog of the South” still remains the funniest American road novel ever written. It is the story of Ray Midge’s pursuit of his wife, Norma, from Arkansas down through Mexico to Belize. She has...
On 1911 crime: ‘That murdered deputy sheriff was my grandfather!’

On 1911 crime: ‘That murdered deputy sheriff was my grandfather!’

These days, readers provide the lion’s share of material for Austin Found. Or at least they get the ball rolling. Last month, we serialized the report of a 1911 double murder on West Monroe Street as reported in Ken Roberts’ new book, “The Cedar Choppers.” John Teague, son of a Hill Country clan, killed John Gest, owner of the Little South Austin Saloon, then attempted to kill...
David Lynch writes a memoir — but reveals only more mysteries

David Lynch writes a memoir — but reveals only more mysteries

Mystery is important to David Lynch, explanation anathema. His films defy straightforward interpretation; he’s never offered any. About his own biography, he’s long been coy. His press kits used to read simply, “Born Missoula, Montana. Eagle Scout.” So “Room to Dream,” a memoir pushing 600 pages, may come as a surprise. Is the game up? Fans who share Lynch&rsquo...
Commentary: Ghosts and silence in West Texas

Commentary: Ghosts and silence in West Texas

There is a time machine hidden in the vast desert of far West Texas. As one drives south on U.S. 180, just where the turnoff for Carlsbad Caverns is nestled in a forest of tacky Whites City billboards, a shimmering ridge of rock rises like some wall in a garden of the gods. It parallels the road and then curves in the distance to form a towering pair of peaks: El Capitan and Guadalupe Peak, the most...
‘The President Is Missing’? Not in downtown Austin, where Bill Clinton was spotted Monday

‘The President Is Missing’? Not in downtown Austin, where Bill Clinton was spotted Monday

His new book is about a missing president, but Bill Clinton was pretty easy to spot in Austin Monday, according to social media reports. The 43rd president of the United States stopped in at Güero’s Taco Bar on South Congress and posed for pictures.  No word yet on if Clinton ordered the dish that was named for him, the El Presidente.  Clinton was in town for an event...
Best Texas Books: ‘Where Texas Meets the Sea’ by Alan Lessoff

Best Texas Books: ‘Where Texas Meets the Sea’ by Alan Lessoff

How many observers would have predicted that the finest urban history to date about a Texas city would take as its subject Corpus Christi? Permanently perched on the state’s periphery, Corpus, a city of 316,000 — 442,000 in the metro area — seems always consigned to secondary status. NOTE: This story first ran in the Statesman June 9, 2015. We’re reviving...
We now know almost everything about that 1939 Austin baptism

We now know almost everything about that 1939 Austin baptism

Remember a few weeks ago, when we ran the photo of a group baptism at Bluff Springs? At the request of a reader — and with the help of our cadre of history advocates — we pinpointed the springs and the pictured pool to private land just west of Bluff Springs Road and just south of Onion Creek. One can easily pick out the old pool on satellite maps. RELATED: Pinpointing a baptism at Bluff...
Former LA Times critic chronicles Paul Simon’s effect on music, culture

Former LA Times critic chronicles Paul Simon’s effect on music, culture

Robert Hilburn’s “Paul Simon: The Life” is a searching biography of the renowned songwriter, well known for his melancholic songs and competitive, perfectionist nature. The former longtime critic for the Los Angeles Times, Hilburn (“Johnny Cash: The Life,” 2013) ranks high in the firmament of writers on popular music, a fitting match for a subject who himself is very...
Austin author, ‘Doctor Strange’ screenwriter puts his short story skills to test

Austin author, ‘Doctor Strange’ screenwriter puts his short story skills to test

Many short story collections bring together previously published work, assembling in one place pieces that an author’s fans might struggle to find in the wild. “We Are Where the Nightmares Go and Other Stories,” the first short fiction collection from Austin-based author and screenwriter C. Robert Cargill, is not such a set. “We Are Where the Nightmares Go” is the work...
Best Texas books: ‘The Cedar Choppers’ by Ken Roberts

Best Texas books: ‘The Cedar Choppers’ by Ken Roberts

The best Texas book I’ve read of late was “The Cedar Choppers: Life on the Edge of Nothing” by  Ken Roberts (Texas A&M Press). I doubles as one of the most instructive books about Austin’s history and culture. Roberts, a former professor at Southwestern University in Georgetown, knows something about deep research. For this story about...
New Whole30 book offers summertime recipes, including this peach and prosciutto salad

New Whole30 book offers summertime recipes, including this peach and prosciutto salad

The Whole30 might be a popular January effort to kickstart the year by eating sugar- and grain-free, but for many people, Whole30 is a year-round way of life. Michelle Smith’s new book is called “The Whole Smiths Good Food Cookbook.” Contributed by Michelle Smith One of those cooks is Michelle Smith, who has a new cookbook called “ The Whole Smiths...
INSIGHT: Senator turned away from old Walmart in Texas housing immigrants’ kids

INSIGHT: Senator turned away from old Walmart in Texas housing immigrants’ kids

As the sun set Sunday night, Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., went to a shuttered Walmart in Brownsville that has been converted into a detention center for immigrant children who have been separated from their parents. He asked for a tour. Instead, the government contractor that runs the converted store called the cops. An officer filled out a police report, and the senator was asked to leave. The half-hour...
Al Roker examines class issues of 1889 Johnstown Flood in latest book

Al Roker examines class issues of 1889 Johnstown Flood in latest book

Al Roker, the ebullient weather personality from NBC’s “Today” show, returns with “Ruthless Tide,” a flood account that is both intimate and alert to the wealth and class distinctions highlighted by the 1889 Johnstown Flood. Roker, who wrote about a 1900 hurricane (“The Storm of the Century,” 2015), has some sizable footsteps to follow in this one —...
Double murder in 1911 did not merit much prison time

Double murder in 1911 did not merit much prison time

For the past two weeks, we’ve reconstructed two 1911 murders in South Austin with the help of Ken Roberts’ fine new book, “The Cedar Choppers: Life on the Edge of Nothing.” One drunken night, John Teague shot and killed John Gest, owner of a bar on West Monroe Street, shot at but missed his bartender, Max Himmelreich, then wrestled with, shot and killed sheriff’s deputy...
INSIGHT: Send me a Teddy bear, the pregnant child asked me

INSIGHT: Send me a Teddy bear, the pregnant child asked me

To research my 2015 novel, “The Same Sky,” about the intersecting lives of a Texas couple who own a restaurant and a Honduran girl who crosses the border illegally to find her mother, I left my husband and three children and went to Brownsville, Texas, and San Diego. In visits to six shelters over several days in both cities, I interviewed dozens of unaccompanied minors who had been caught...
Chuck Palahniuk escalates fractures of society in ‘Adjustment Day’

Chuck Palahniuk escalates fractures of society in ‘Adjustment Day’

An uprising in Portland, Ore., leads to social revolution and terror in Chuck Palahniuk’s “Adjustment Day,” a relentless satire of our splintered times. Many writers have complained recently that current events are distracting them from doing the work. Clearly, Palahniuk has embraced the madness, crafting a dystopian nightmare that takes all the fractures of our modern society and...
INSIGHT: 3 maps that explain graying areas of Texas, U.S.

INSIGHT: 3 maps that explain graying areas of Texas, U.S.

The U.S. population has changed substantially in the last half century, growing by nearly 63 percent. Perhaps the two most prominent demographic changes over the past 50 years relate to age. In 1968, the baby boom had just ended, and the oldest members of its cohort were only 22 years old. As baby boomers age, the nation has substantially aged as well. In 1970, the median age in the U.S. was 28.1...
Author tackles one of the greatest baseball teams you’ve never heard of

Author tackles one of the greatest baseball teams you’ve never heard of

When Anne Keene, the Austin author of “The Cloudbuster Nine: The Untold Story of Ted Williams and the Baseball Team that Helped Win World War II,” was growing up, she knew that her father both loved and hated the game of baseball. She knew he adored it, loved the old players, told stories about them to the point that it became something of a family joke. But she also knew that he harbored...
Texas leaders tackle terrorism, politics, education and animal welfare

Texas leaders tackle terrorism, politics, education and animal welfare

The Library was the place to be. Not the Central Public Library. But the blue-and-red rectangular meeting room at Hotel Van Zandt. It was the location for a Toast of the Town salon to support the Neal Kocurek Scholarship Fund for health sciences careers, operated by the St. David’s Foundation. Thirty or so lucky souls were treated to an enlightening public talk between journalist and author...
INSIGHT: New ‘zero tolerance’ immigration crackdown fills border courts

INSIGHT: New ‘zero tolerance’ immigration crackdown fills border courts

The crowded courtroom reeked of stale sweat, and 92 immigrants filled all five benches, leaving standing room only for visitors and court personnel. “It’s packed in there,” said one of a dozen guards and deputy marshals stationed at the courtroom last week. “This is what it’s going to be like from now on — no more ‘catch and release.’” That&rsquo...
INSIGHT: Why conservation is only half the battle for sea turtles

INSIGHT: Why conservation is only half the battle for sea turtles

On beaches from North Carolina to Texas and throughout the wider Caribbean, one of nature’s great seasonal events is underway. Adult female sea turtles are crawling out of the ocean, digging deep holes in the sand and laying eggs. After about 60 days, turtle hatchlings will emerge and head for the water’s edge, fending for themselves from their first moments. I have spent 36 years studying...
INSIGHT: ‘School climate’ and the unintended results of more security

INSIGHT: ‘School climate’ and the unintended results of more security

School shootings like the one that took place in Santa Fe, Texas, on May 18 are often followed by calls for enhanced security measures. But Santa Fe High School already had many of these security measures in place. For instance, the high school had a school resource officer who responded to the attack. The school also had security cameras in place and had recently conducted active shooting training...
INSIGHT: 5 fallacies about guns that creep out after mass shootings

INSIGHT: 5 fallacies about guns that creep out after mass shootings

At least 10 people were killed at a Santa Fe, Texas, high school on May 18 after a classmate opened fire with a shotgun and a .38 revolver. The shooting came just three months after another teen shooter killed 17 in Parkland, Florida, sparking nationwide youth-led protests over gun violence – and a familiar debate over what changes could really make a difference. As a criminologist, I often...
How Texas history became one woman’s life passion

How Texas history became one woman’s life passion

If you stop by the side of the road in Texas to check out historical markers regularly, you likely read her words. If you attend lifetime learning clubs in the Austin area, you likely hear her speak. And if you browse the Texana section of any decent-size bookstore, at some point you’ll run across the name “Myra McIlvain” on the spines of histories, historical novels and nonfiction...

Cedar chopper killed 2 on West Monroe Street

Tales of historical murder and mayhem mean a lot more when they happened on your street. We’re still reading Ken Roberts’ excellent “The Cedar Choppers: Life on the Edge of Nothing” (Texas A&M University Press), an account of the clans who lived mostly isolated lives in the Hill Country west and north of Austin. One incident of violence concerning a Teague clan member near...
Self-help memoir encourages working through cancer, not ‘fighting’ it

Self-help memoir encourages working through cancer, not ‘fighting’ it

Entrepreneur and speaker Paige Davis chronicles her breast cancer journey in “Here We Grow,” her debut memoir and self-help book. Davis was only 38 years old when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. The news was not a complete surprise; she had noticed a lump but delayed seeing a doctor due to her growing business, BlueAvocado. She and her family had endured too many recent brushes with...
Get inspired by the royal wedding with these fun kids activities this weekend in Austin, May 18-20

Get inspired by the royal wedding with these fun kids activities this weekend in Austin, May 18-20

While you watch the royal wedding on TV , your kids can be enjoying a story time all about a “Wedding of the Century.” And while proud parents will be celebrating graduation at the University of Texas, you can give your kids a love of education at the Summer Reading Splash! These are just some of the events happening this weekend. Look for a great weekend with highs...
Learn about Texas’ paddling trails at this book signing with Bob Spain

Learn about Texas’ paddling trails at this book signing with Bob Spain

Bob Spain a canoe along the Luling Zedler Mill Paddling Trail, a 6-mile stretch of the San Marcos River from the U.S. Hwy 90 crossing to the Zedler Mill. File photo by Kelly West/ AMERICAN-STATESMAN   It’s tougher than you think to paddle a canoe in a straight line. I know, because I’ve been trying to perfect the skill (sporadically) for a few months now, with the help...
Up your picnic, potluck game with this pimiento cheese pasta salad

Up your picnic, potluck game with this pimiento cheese pasta salad

If death is unavoidable, so is funeral food. The desire to make food for a grieving family is embedded deep within us, especially if you live in the South, says cookbook author Perre Coleman Magness. The Memphis, Tenn.-based author recently published “ The Southern Sympathy Cookbook: Funeral Food with a Twist” (Countryman Press, $22.95), which honors the long-held...
INSIGHT: Why would a white person visit Montgomery’s slavery memorial?

INSIGHT: Why would a white person visit Montgomery’s slavery memorial?

For all the optimism among those of us who are white people that America has moved into a post-racial era, the daily news reports say this isn’t the case. One of the latest racial “incidents” that grabbed headlines occurred in Philadelphia recently, when two African-American men were arrested in a Starbucks. After issuing an apology to the two men, Starbucks decided to close their...
James Beard-winning Alon Shaya to talk about new cookbook at Central Library on Monday

James Beard-winning Alon Shaya to talk about new cookbook at Central Library on Monday

We’re seeing more and more chefs and cookbook authors booked at the downtown library, and tonight, food lovers have a chance to hear from  esteemed chef Alon Shaya. Chef Alon Shaya will be in Austin on May 14 for an appearance at the Central Library downtown. Contributed by Rush Jagoe. The James Beard-winning Shaya, who was born in Israeli and immigrated to Philadelphia when...

Austin learns a lot from Larry Wright, Evan Smith and Amy Mills

The Library was the place to be. Not the Central Public Library. But the blue-and-red rectangular meeting room at  Hotel van Zandt. It was the location for a  Toast of the Town salon to support the  Neal Kocurek Scholarship Fund for health sciences careers, operated by the  St. David’s Foundation. Thirty...
Pinpointing a 1940s Bluff Springs baptism

Pinpointing a 1940s Bluff Springs baptism

Reader Craig Scott contacted our Austin Answered project: “I recently saw a photo of people getting baptized in the springs at Bluff Springs dated back in the 1940s,” he writes. “It had a concrete enclosure. Can you run a story on where the actual springs were or are?” The compelling image, shared on the Facebook page of the Manchaca-Onion Creek Historical Association by Joy...
Border Patrol says fear of child trafficking spurs separations

Border Patrol says fear of child trafficking spurs separations

Border Patrol agents found the man walking a little boy up a dirt road north of the Rio Grande near Mission, with eight other Central American migrants. The pair wore matching blue-striped polo shirts. Ely Fernandez explained that he was a taxi driver who had fled San Pedro Sula, a notoriously dangerous city in northern Honduras. Fernandez, 43, said a gang had threatened to kill him for not paying...
Jesmyn Ward recasts old truths in award-winning ‘Sing, Unburied, Sing’

Jesmyn Ward recasts old truths in award-winning ‘Sing, Unburied, Sing’

The terrible beauty of life along the nation’s lower margins is summoned in Jesmyn Ward’s “Sing, Unburied, Sing,” a bold, bright, and sharp-eyed road novel. In present-day Mississippi, citizens of all colors struggle much as their ancestors did against the persistence of poverty, the wages of sin, and the legacy of violence. Thirteen-year-old Jojo is a sensitive African-American...
Author Kate DiCamillo to keynote school district’s summer reading fest

Author Kate DiCamillo to keynote school district’s summer reading fest

The school year may not be quite over, but summer reading lists are already out in many Central Texas districts. Time for some real-life inspiration with the Summer Reading Splash, a revamped and expanded kickoff event for Austin Independent School District’s 5 Book Dive Summer Reading Program. It’s a daylong series of author talks, panels, hands-on activities and book signings &mdash...
‘Wicked Healthy’ author to host plant-based cooking demo at new library

‘Wicked Healthy’ author to host plant-based cooking demo at new library

In 2008, brothers Derek and Chad Sarno, who grew up in New England, founded Wicked Healthy, a website with recipes and videos for making their signature “80 percent healthy, 20 percent wicked” lifestyle. They are “plant pushers, not meat shamers” with years of chef experience in restaurants and global grocery chains. Derek, ,left, and Chad...
To Southwestern’s president, college is about shaping a thoughtful mind

To Southwestern’s president, college is about shaping a thoughtful mind

As far as Edward Burger is concerned, college students need more than anything to become agile thinkers. And as president of Southwestern University since 2013, he’s trying to reinvent higher education with that goal in mind. Central to the effort is Paideia, an interconnected curriculum that he inherited from the previous president, Jake Schrum, and that Burger is putting on steroids at the...
New book ‘The Stepmoms’ Club’ reminds us: Don’t forget stepmoms this Mother’s Day

New book ‘The Stepmoms’ Club’ reminds us: Don’t forget stepmoms this Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day can be the loneliest holiday for stepmoms. The children they are helping to raise are with their mothers. They’ve often helped create something special for the children’s mother and often the work they do is not acknowledged. “You go to Starbucks and they don’t know you’re not a mother and they wish you a Happy Mother’s Day,&rdquo...
Joanna Gaines’ cookbook outsells Barefoot Contessa, Pioneer Woman in first week

Joanna Gaines’ cookbook outsells Barefoot Contessa, Pioneer Woman in first week

It’s Teacher Appreciation Week around these parts, and it’s also “Magnolia Table” season. “Magnolia Table” is the new cookbook from Joanna Gaines, and it sold 169,000 copies in its first week, more than recent books from Ina Garten and Ree Drummond. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman Of course, that’s the name of Joanna...
Multitudes flock to Red, Hot and Soul plus Austin Book Awards

Multitudes flock to Red, Hot and Soul plus Austin Book Awards

The flowers. Good heavens, the flowers. This represents only a fraction of David Kurio’s cascading floral arrangements at Red, Hot and Soul for Zach Theatre. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman David Kurio‘s cascading floral arrangements filled the eye at every angle during the  Red, Hot  and Soul gala, staged in the  ...
Austin author Jeffrey Kerr illustrates adventures of Texas politician

Austin author Jeffrey Kerr illustrates adventures of Texas politician

Jeffrey Kerr offers a sturdy historical novel recounting the adventures and misadventures of the second president of Texas in “Lamar’s Folly.” “Some say that if Mirabeau Lamar hadn’t shot the buffalo he wouldn’t have become president.” That’s as promising an opening line as any, and Kerr (“Seat of Empire: The Embattled Birth of Austin, Texas,&rdquo...
Bees, chemistry and more to explore this beautiful weekend, May 4-6

Bees, chemistry and more to explore this beautiful weekend, May 4-6

  The rain is coming… but it will go away in time for Saturday and Sunday. Enjoy these Austin family events. Science Mill.  Fun with Chemistry.  University of Texas Women in Natural Sciences group sponsors hands-on activities. 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. Science Mill, 101 Lady Bird Lane, Johnson City.  sciencemill.org Bullock...
Audio series examines DEA culpability in 2011 Allende massacre

Audio series examines DEA culpability in 2011 Allende massacre

When the Zetas arrived in Allende a decade ago, they infiltrated the very fiber of the hardscrabble ranching and coal mining town about 45 minutes south of the Rio Grande and the Texas city of Eagle Pass. The cartel members started construction companies and money exchange businesses. They hosted concerts and opened restaurants. They showed up at holiday parties and their kids went to local schools...
Eight things the other 49 states need to understand about Texas

Eight things the other 49 states need to understand about Texas

As we who live here are painfully aware, Texas can seem absolutely baffling to outsiders. In his latest book, “God Save Texas,” Lawrence Wright takes the myth and truth of the Lone Star State head-on in a series of essays that, the more one reads them, feel like a Texas 101 primer, the sort of thing to hand your relatives back east to explain How We in Texas Live Now. Here are eight essential...
Here are 30 must-see movies from the Paramount Summer Classic series

Here are 30 must-see movies from the Paramount Summer Classic series

More than 110 movies are screening this summer as part of the Paramount Summer Classic film series. Here are 30 not to miss. There are others worth seeing, of course, but are 30 really good ones. “Stormy Weather” (7 p.m. May 31) This 1943 picture remains one of the most important musicals ever made (what with its staggering African-American cast). Starring  Lena Horne, Bill Robinson...
Austin author weaves family history, immigration into ghost story

Austin author weaves family history, immigration into ghost story

Austin author Natalia Sylvester’s second novel, “Everyone Knows You Go Home,” interweaves past and present, America and Mexico into the legacy of a family divided by its own stories. The day of her wedding, Isabel meets her new husband’s father’s ghost. Omar is trying to repair the damage he left his son, Martin, and wife, Elda, by persuading Isabel to give him a chance...
President Bill Clinton coming to Bass Concert Hall on June 10

President Bill Clinton coming to Bass Concert Hall on June 10

Bass Concert Hall will host “A Conversation with President Bill Clinton” at 7:30 p.m. June 10. Clinton will discuss “The President is Missing,” his new novel co-authored with bestselling writer James Patterson. This is the first time a president has collaborated with a bestselling novelist on a work of fiction.  Tickets go on sale April 27 and range from $49.50 to...
Satirist Christopher Moore’s ‘Noir’ shoots and misses

Satirist Christopher Moore’s ‘Noir’ shoots and misses

A regular joe stirs up a whole pot of trouble when he meets a damsel in distress in Christopher Moore’s “Noir.” Renowned satirist Moore offers up a soft-boiled take on the hard-boiled tradition personified by the likes of Dashiell Hammet and Raymond Chandler in this messy, comic mystery that often goes off the rails. The book does offer a fascinating setting in San Francisco circa...
Daniel Peña’s debut novel tells grim tale mixed with desperate hope

Daniel Peña’s debut novel tells grim tale mixed with desperate hope

Uli knows if they can make it to the highway, they’ll live. With 25 feet to go before impact, he can’t even scream before the prop plane his brother is piloting crumples into the ground, the sound a “thundering crack of flesh on metal.” Surviving the crash turns out to be the least of Uli’s worries, though, as Daniel Peña illuminates in his keenly observed debut...
Robert Ashcroft’s horror debut explores humanity in age of monsters

Robert Ashcroft’s horror debut explores humanity in age of monsters

An augmented soldier fights against apocalyptic nightmares in a brutal war to save humanity in Robert Ashcroft’s “The Megarothke.” Debut novelist Ashcroft unleashes a witch’s brew of macabre, Lovecraftian imagery in this strange horror novel that couches a heavy emotional arc within its video game-like setting. Our narrator is former LAPD officer-turned-cybernetic survivor...
Lawrence Wright: Eight things the other 49 states need to understand about Texas

Lawrence Wright: Eight things the other 49 states need to understand about Texas

As we who live here are painfully aware, Texas can seem absolutely baffling to outsiders. In his latest book, “God Save Texas,” Lawrence Wright takes the myth and truth of the Lone Star State head-on in a series of essays that, the more one reads them, feel like a Texas 101 primer, the sort of thing to hand your relatives back east to explain How We in Texas Live Now.  Here are eight...
No cash, no price tags: 10 things to know about new Amazon Books store

No cash, no price tags: 10 things to know about new Amazon Books store

Amazon Books opened its first Texas store at the Domain Northside last month. Here’s a guide to help you know what to expect. As evidenced by the purchase of more than 400 Whole Foods stores, Amazon is investing heavily in physical retail outlets, despite its dominance as an online company. The 4,800-square-foot bookstore at the Domain Northside, which opened in March, is an effort...
Hamid’s ‘Exit West’ is a bittersweet love story in ashes of civil war

Hamid’s ‘Exit West’ is a bittersweet love story in ashes of civil war

Mohsin Hamid (“Discontent and Its Civilizations,” 2014) crafts a richly imaginative tale of love and loss in the ashes of civil war in “Exit West.” The country — well, it doesn’t much matter, one of any number that are riven by sectarian violence, by militias and fundamentalists and repressive government troops. It’s a place where a ponytailed spice merchant...
Austin author traces complicated legacy of Texas movie ‘Giant’

Austin author traces complicated legacy of Texas movie ‘Giant’

Don Graham, the J. Frank Dobie Regents Professor of English at the University of Texas, is probably the pre-eminent critic of Texas culture, and it’s hard to imagine anyone better to tackle a book about one of the biggest – and best – movies ever made about the state: “Giant.” In his new book, Graham starts in May 1955, when members of the press are invited to the Warner...
The ATX Bookstore Crawl is coming April 28

The ATX Bookstore Crawl is coming April 28

The second annual Austin Bookstore crawl takes place April 28. After all, it’s the season of brick-and-mortar-retail celebration. Record Store Day takes place April 21; Free Comic Book Day on May 5. Participating ATX Bookstore crawl include: HalfPrice Books (All 7 Locations) Here is the deal, according to the website: “Visit three or more of the participating bookstores on April 28...
Journalist Lauren Hilgers’ new book makes case for U.S. as a sanctuary

Journalist Lauren Hilgers’ new book makes case for U.S. as a sanctuary

Lauren Hilgers’ “Patriot Number One” is an affecting portrait of a Chinese dissident who found a home among like-minded democrats in faraway New York. Journalist Hilgers, who has covered China for the New Yorker and Businessweek, among other publications, met Zhuang Liehong in his home village on the southern coast of China. There, in 2011, as she reported, villagers had rebelled...
Jonathan Evison’s latest, ‘Lawn Boy,’ brings humor to life’s misfortunes

Jonathan Evison’s latest, ‘Lawn Boy,’ brings humor to life’s misfortunes

An aimless young man decides to get his life together, but life has other plans in Jonathan Evison’s “Lawn Boy.” Mike Muñoz doesn’t quite know what he wants out of life, but he knows he deserves better than what he’s got now: a terrible job cutting lawns, a truck that barely runs, and a tiny house packed with a disabled brother, an exhausted mother, and his mother&rsquo...
History, fantasy comic book anthology raises money for Puerto Rico

History, fantasy comic book anthology raises money for Puerto Rico

St. Louis-based comic book publisher Lion Forge is joining the relief efforts to assist those still in need in Puerto Rico after the destruction of Hurricane Maria. All profits from Lion Forge’s just-released “Puerto Rico Strong” anthology, written and illustrated by some of the top Puerto Rican and Latino talent in the comic book industry, will go to the United Way of Puerto Rico...
Wrongfully convicted Texan chronicles fight against justice system

Wrongfully convicted Texan chronicles fight against justice system

A travesty of the Texas judicial system leads to death-row vindication in Anthony Graves’ memoir, “Infinite Hope.” Though Graves served more than 18 years behind bars for a crime he did not commit, his account is largely without bitterness or outrage — and is all the more powerful because of it. The facts speak for themselves. On a night when the author was with his girlfriend...
Texas author recounts life of anarchist advocate born into slavery

Texas author recounts life of anarchist advocate born into slavery

Jacqueline Jones’ “Goddess of Anarchy” is a tough-minded biography of a fiery revolutionary whose activism spanned the decades from Reconstruction to the New Deal. Bancroft Prize winner Jones evinces considerable respect for her subject, a woman born into slavery who gained fame in 1880s Chicago as one of the anarchist movement’s most vocal advocates of violent revolt. But...
Austin author offers tips on how you can be a better writer

Austin author offers tips on how you can be a better writer

This month’s Statesman Selects is a little different. Usually, we highlight a work of fiction or nonfiction — something with some sort of narrative. This month’s Selects is, well, a textbook. An incredibly cool textbook. In “The Writer’s Field Guide to the Craft of Fiction,” Austin author (and program director for the Writers’ League of Texas) Michael Noll...
Walter Mosley’s mystery ‘Down the River’ is familiar but satisfying

Walter Mosley’s mystery ‘Down the River’ is familiar but satisfying

Walter Mosley’s “Down the River Unto the Sea” begins what looks to be a new series with a protagonist whose territory covers New York City’s outer boroughs—and, yes, that means Staten Island, too. Joe King Oliver was an ace investigator with the NYPD until his roving eye helped him get framed for sexual assault. “Trouble ambushed me with my pants down and my nose...
‘Betty Before X’ tells story of civil rights leader Betty Shabazz’s youth

‘Betty Before X’ tells story of civil rights leader Betty Shabazz’s youth

Imagine trying to write about your mother when she was a kid. Where would you start? What details would you include? To write “Betty Before X,” Ilyasah Shabazz had to think hard about those questions. Her mother, Betty Shabazz, was an important civil rights leader. When her husband, Malcolm X, was assassinated in 1965, Betty Shabazz continued his work in social justice until her death...
Author of quiet love story ‘Call Me by Your Name’ to visit BookPeople

Author of quiet love story ‘Call Me by Your Name’ to visit BookPeople

“Call Me by Your Name” is a graceful debut novel by memoirist/literary scholar André Aciman (“False Papers,” 2000,), joining young love to his familiar themes of dislocation and wandering. One could be arrested in certain parts of the world for the young love in question, which joins a 17-year-old bookish musician who is improbably well educated — not many college-educated...
Sean Penn coming to Austin April 3

Sean Penn coming to Austin April 3

Actor/director/activist/colorful personality Sean Penn is coming to Austin to chat with historian Douglas Brinkley about Penn’s debut novel “Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff.” They will be talking about the book and probably some other things (Penn’s Oscars, his blend of activism and journalism, not finding Chris Rock’s 2005 Oscars joke about Jude Law funny) 7 p.m. April 3...
Mexican-American grapples with lessons learned on Border Patrol

Mexican-American grapples with lessons learned on Border Patrol

A Mexican-American student of international relations becomes a United States Border Patrol agent to learn what he can’t in the classroom in Francisco Cantú’s “The Line Becomes a River.” Cantú is a talented writer who knows where to find great material, even as he risks losing his soul in the process. His Mexican mother had worked as a ranger in West Texas, and...
Former special counsel to Bill Clinton examines 2016 election

Former special counsel to Bill Clinton examines 2016 election

Lanny J. Davis, former special counsel to former President Bill Clinton, takes on the 2016 election and James Comey’s effect on the outcome in “The Unmaking of the President 2016.” According to Davis (“Close-Up: Twelve Months at Yale,” 2017), the negative effect is indisputable, and he has the data, compiled both before and well after the election, to back up his claims...
Austin author drew on a real-life terror for ‘The Which Way Tree’

Austin author drew on a real-life terror for ‘The Which Way Tree’

About seven or so years ago, something happened to Austin author Elizabeth Crook’s family that planted the seed for her fifth novel, “The Which Way Tree.” They were out in the Hill Country celebrating the birthday of her daughter, who was turning 6. At some point in the day, her then-14-year-old son and a friend decided to go to a nearby cabin to go camping. They took off about noon...
Reading the best Black Panther comics is cheaper than a movie ticket

Reading the best Black Panther comics is cheaper than a movie ticket

It’s well established that the Marvel Cinematic Universe is not all that closely related to whatever has gone on or will go on in the comic books published by Marvel. However, there’s also no getting around the fact that the MCU have always taken characters, plot points, situations and relationships straight from the comics. Which is to say, you don’t have to read the comics to understand...
How Michael Pollan pivoted from agriculture to acid in new book

How Michael Pollan pivoted from agriculture to acid in new book

Michael Pollan knows you’re probably a little surprised to hear about his next book. The author known for the seminal book “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” has been labeled a food writer, but he prefers thinking about himself as a nature writer. Through that best-selling book and several others, including “Cooked” and “The Botany of Desire,” Pollan uses food...
Latest in Terry Shames’ mystery series explores horrors of dogfighting

Latest in Terry Shames’ mystery series explores horrors of dogfighting

A small-town chief of police acquires a dog en route to solving a vicious case of murder in Terry Shames’ “A Reckoning in the Back Country.” Samuel Craddock, who’s come out of retirement to run the local police department on a shoestring, finds his resources stretched when Margaret Wilkins reports her husband missing. Dr. Lewis Wilkins, last seen leaving the couple’s...
‘Oliver Loving’ is a vividly rendered exploration of school shootings

‘Oliver Loving’ is a vividly rendered exploration of school shootings

Ten years later, a school shooting in West Texas is revisited from the perspective of a family it changed forever in Stefan Merrill Block’s “Oliver Loving.” What we know, what Eve Loving, her husband, Jed, and their son, Charlie, know, is this: a recent graduate named Hector Espina Jr. returned to the Bliss Township School campus the night of the homecoming dance, shot the drama...
Thorpe shares enlightening stories of refugee students in ‘Newcomers’

Thorpe shares enlightening stories of refugee students in ‘Newcomers’

Helen Thorpe’s “The Newcomers” is a collection of personal stories of child refugees as they integrate into American society. Focusing on one classroom in South High School in Denver, Colo., Thorpe (“Soldier Girls: The Battles of Three Women at Home and at War,” 2014) dives deep into the lives of 22 students, all refugees, who were just some of the many who enrolled in...
Matt de la Peña and Loren Long’s ‘Love’ honors what makes us who we are

Matt de la Peña and Loren Long’s ‘Love’ honors what makes us who we are

It’s tempting to eschew picture books once children are past a certain age. From suggested age ranges to the excitement over young readers’ ability to move into more challenging texts, there are plenty of reasons driving the shift into heftier volumes as the years progress. But it would be a mistake to leave picture books behind completely. Nonfiction picture books, with their mix of well-researched...
Harry Ransom Center acquires massive Arthur Miller archive

Harry Ransom Center acquires massive Arthur Miller archive

The Harry Ransom Center at UT has acquired the archive of American playwright Arthur Miller (1915–2005). Obtained from the Arthur Miller Trust, the archive spans Miller’s career. During his lifetime the Ransom Center had a close association with Miller, who first donated a group of early play manuscripts and working notebooks to the Center in the early 1960s. This new acquisition...
Texas Book Festival will take place Oct. 27 and 28

Texas Book Festival will take place Oct. 27 and 28

The 23rd Texas Book Festival will take place Oct. 27 and 28 in and around the Texas State Capitol in downtown Austin, it was announced Wednesday. The 2017 Festival Weekend was the most successful on record, with 50,000 attendees and about 300 authors coming together on November 4 and 5, 2017. The annual First Edition Literary Gala, which took place Nov. 3 of last year, raised more than $630,000 for...
The strange case of Richard Nixon vs. Timothy Leary

The strange case of Richard Nixon vs. Timothy Leary

At one point during a free-ranging conversation about Timothy Leary, Richard Nixon, acid and the ability to just hop on a plane in the 1970s, increasingly legendary Texas journalist Bill Minutaglio asks me a question I was not expecting: “Joe, do you think young people even know who Timothy Leary is?” It’s important to note that the man didn’t ask it in a condescending, &ldquo...
Why an American raised her children with a German parenting style

Why an American raised her children with a German parenting style

“Achtung Baby” is an American woman’s account of how she altered her parenting methods to mimic her new German neighbors. When Sara Zaske (“The First,” 2012) moved with her husband and young daughter to Berlin, she discovered that her German neighbors handled parenting quite differently than what she was used to in the U.S. In this well-written mix of personal reflections...
Austinites looking for ‘Fire and Fury’ will have to wait until Jan. 8

Austinites looking for ‘Fire and Fury’ will have to wait until Jan. 8

While there were long lines and reports of sellouts in Washington, D.C. for “Fire and Fury,” Michael Wolff’s book on Donald Trump, Austinites will have to wait until Monday, Jan. 8, for the book. While, earlier this week, publisher Henry Holt and Company moved up the pub date to Jan 5. in response to Trump’s objections to the book, some distributors were unable to...
Austinite Boyd Taylor’s ‘Necessities’ an engrossing crime series sequel

Austinite Boyd Taylor’s ‘Necessities’ an engrossing crime series sequel

In Boyd Taylor’s “Necessities,” a Texas lawyer comes to the aid of a war veteran who’s on trial for murder. Reporter David Lewis, a double amputee since a street battle in Iraq, is pleasantly surprised by his run-in with Cordelia Lehrer. The two, who’d had a one-night stand in college, quickly reignite their intimacy. But there may be more to the reunion: Cordelia invites...
Therapist recounts abuse, survival in ‘The Only Girl in the World’

Therapist recounts abuse, survival in ‘The Only Girl in the World’

Maude Julien’s “The Only Girl in the World” is a disturbing, engrossing memoir of a bizarre, highly abusive childhood. Psychotherapist Julien makes her literary debut with a gripping chronicle of growing up imprisoned and tormented by her parents. Isolated on a walled estate not far from Dunkirk, Julien was raised to become a “superior being,” destined to “control...
‘Stormlight Archive’ series continues with gripping third book

‘Stormlight Archive’ series continues with gripping third book

Brandon Sanderson’s “Oathbringer” is an epic fantasy about the return of an ancient, world-destroying evil. God is dead. And Odium, the god who killed the Almighty, is unleashing terrible monsters to destroy humankind. Dalinar Kholin has bonded with the powerful spren known as the Stormfather and led his people to the lost city of Urithiru, but his work is just beginning. Now he...
More Insight and Books Stories