Monday, December 7, 2009

Etiquette for Kids

Here is a self-published book I came across that should be required reading for everyone ages 9 to 14. Heck, all the rest of us as well!

As an advocate of more civility, I heartily recommend this book.

Best Foot Forward: A Basic Guide to Good Manners for Kids (or Grownups Who Need a Little Reminder) by longtime middle school teacher Elizabeth Middleton is a book that is desperately needed these days. In very simple, straightforward language, Middleton offers practical etiquette advice on introductions, conversation, telephone use, table manners, correspondence, dances & parties, and dating.

Her Number 1 cardinal rule for young people dealing with adults? “Always look people in the eye!”

Every young person, from fourth grade up, should read this book. Parents, too! $14.99 paperback.

You can order Best Foot Forward by calling Texas Star Trading Company at 325-672-9696. Or e-mail

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Top Texas Books of the Year, 2009

Each year around this time I go back and look at the Texas books I’ve written about in the past 12 months and try to pick my favorite 10.

Of course, it is a subjective list. The 10 books are ones I particularly liked, for one reason or another. They are not necessarily the 10 most significant Texas books of the year, or even the 10 “best,” whatever that is.

But they are my Top 10 – books I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend to you. I do try to include a variety of topics and interests in my list, some fiction as well as non-fiction, maybe a children’s book or a cookbook, some elegant coffee table volumes.

Here they are, in no particular order, my Top 10 Texas Books of 2009, plus a few honorable mentions.

Historic Texas from the Air by Gerald Saxon, David Buisserer, Richard Francaviglia and photos by Jack W. Graves Jr. (University of Texas Press, $45) is a colorful and informative coffee table book that focuses on 73 historic sites. Graves’ aerial photographs are the highlight of the book, but each photo is accompanied by a page or two of text explaining the site’s significance. This one deserves a place in every Texan’s library.

Lovin’ That Lone Star Flag by photographer E. Joe Deering (Texas A&M University Press, $29.95) is a wonderful collection of photographs of the many creative ways that Texans display the Texas flag -- on boots, spurs, caps, shirts, running shorts, arrows, golf balls, windmills, buckets, birdhouses, and steakhouses, among other uses.

Time of the Rangers by Mike Cox (Forge, $27.95) is the second volume of his comprehensive two-volume history of the Texas Rangers, 10 years in the making. Together, the two books constitute about 1,000 pages of stories, developments, facts, notes and bibliography.

Sex, Murder and the Unwritten Law by Bill Neal (Texas Tech University Press, $$29.95 hardcover), the third in his frontier justice series, is a lively read about – well, just what the title says. The “unwritten law” justified killings in the jury’s eyes in certain cases, especially when the victim was engaged in sexual indiscretions with the defendant’s wife.

The Color of Lightning by Paulette Jiles (William Morrow, $25.99 hardcover) is a novel based on the true story of ex-slave Britt Johnson, who settled in Comanche territory in West Texas in the 1860s. While the Civil War winds down, Johnson’s family is attacked by Comanches while he is away on business. He vows to bring his family back together again, which is the principal plotline of this multi-faceted historical novel.

The Big Rich: The Rise and Fall of the Greatest Texas Oil Fortunes by Bryan Burrough (Penguin, $29.95 hardcover) focuses on the oilmen who became known as the Big Four – Roy Cullen of Houston, Sid Richardson of Fort Worth, and Clint Murchison and H. L. Hunt of Dallas. Burrough presents a detailed account of how oil fortunes were made, flaunted, and lost.

Batty About Texas by J. Jaye Smith (Pelican, $15.95, illustrated by Kathy Coates)was my favorite children’s book about Texas published this year. It is an informative and entertaining look at the Mexican free-tailed bat, the type that lives under the Congress Avenue Bridge in Austin.

Other Men’s Horses by the late Elmer Kelton, the beloved Western author from San Angelo who passed away in August (Forge, $24.99). Kelton completed two more novels in his Texas Ranger series before he died, and this is the first of them. It is one of my Top 10 favorites, both for sentimental reasons and because it is a very good read.

Looking for Lucy Gilligan & Other Stories by Murray Edwards($22.95 trade paperback), a delightful self-published collection of 19 short stories and one of my personal favorites of the year. The title story involves an overweight trucker selected for a TV “makeover,” but he has to find a significant other to ooh and ah over his new look, so he goes searching for the ideal “Lucy Gilligan.”

Music in the Kitchen by Glenda Pierce Facemire (UT Press, $34.95) is a very different kind of cookbook, a collection of favorite recipes from musicians who have performed on the PBS show Austin City Limits. It includes recipes from dozens of well-known entertainers such as Willie Nelson, Robert Earl Keen, the Dixie Chicks, Los Lonely Boys and B.B. King. Color photos of the singers, rather than the food, accompany the selections.

Honorable Mentions:

Two new series of biographies for children about Texas heroes were launched by Bright Sky Press in 2009, one for children ages 5-7, the other for ages 8-11. Veteran children’s author Mary Dodson Wade is the principal writer for both series.

Historic Photos of Texas Lawmen and Historic Photos of Texas Oil, both by the aforementioned Mike Cox,are great collections of black and white photos tracing the history of Texas law enforcement and oil exploration. Each book is $39.95 (Turner Publishing).

Jon Bonnell’s Fine Texas Cuisine (Gibbs Smith, $30) is an upscale Texas cookbook by a Fort Worth chef and restaurateur. Gorgeous color photographs and recipes for such exotic dishes as Rocky Mountain Elk Tacos, Quail Raviolis, and Texas Ostrich Fan Fillet.

Go Down Together: The True, Untold Story of Bonnie and Clyde by Jeff Guinn (Simon & Schuster, $27), well-researched and well-written profile of the famous crime couple published on the 75th anniversary of their death.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Great Variety of Books by Abilene Authors

Abilene authors continue to write and publish books covering an interesting variety of topics and styles, from recipes, essays and poems to etiquette, history and culture. Here are a few examples of books by local authors that have crossed my desk in recent weeks:

This Path is an excellent collection of essays and poems dealing with the various paths that people’s lives have taken them. This isn’t strictly a local book because the contributors come from all over, but it was edited and published by the Silver Boomer Book group of Abilene, which includes Barbara Rollins, Ginny Greene, Kerin Riley-Bishop and Becky Haigler. Greene’s essay, “This One Can,” about a teacher who encouraged her to read, is especially noteworthy. But the book is loaded with outstanding short pieces of similar quality. $14 paperback.

The Amazing Grace cookbook was published in conjunction with the centennial celebration of the Grace Hotel building, now the Grace Museum. Sponsored by Los Aficionados, the museum’s volunteer support group, the book is intended as a fundraiser for the museum. The cookbook committee, chaired by Judy Godfrey, selected several hundred recipes submitted by Abilenians, as well as shared memories and comments about the Grace and its history. Good reading, good cooking, good cause. $25 hardcover.

Prexy: James Winford Hunt by Darris L. Egger and Robert W. Sledge is a biography of the founding president of McMurry University who, in his lifetime, was a cowboy, newspaper editor, preacher, president of two colleges, poet, essayist, and crusader. He was president of McMurry from 1923 until his death in 1934, but his legacy is still very evident on the campus. Current president John H. Russell wrote the introduction. $23.95 hardcover.

The Gift by Lila Ellexson Senter is a collection of “word gifts” or poems she has shared with family and friends at Christmas for more than 25 years. All proceeds from the book benefit the Hope Haven endowment fund. The book is illustrated with black and white renditions from a number of local artists. Certainly a “gift” for the season. $15 paperback.

Best Foot Forward: A Basic Guide to Good Manners for Kids (or Grownups Who Need a Little Reminder) by longtime middle school teacher Wanda Elizabeth Middleton is a book that is desperately needed these days! In very simple, straightforward language, Middleton offers practical etiquette advice on introductions, conversation, telephone use, table manners, correspondence, dances & parties, and dating. Her Number 1 cardinal rule for young people dealing with adults? “Always look people in the eye!” Every young person, from fourth grade up, should read this book. Wouldn’t hurt some of the rest of us as well. $14.99 paperback.

Moonlady is a children’s book beautifully written and illustrated by Marsha Middleton Murray. The soothing lyrical cadence makes it a great “sweet dreams” book to read to young children before bedtime. $15.95 hardcover.

Answer Book: Abilene Christian University is a 330-page reference guide to ACU and Abilene. Edited by Charlie Marler, longtime ACU journalism professor and student newspaper adviser, the Answer Book (now in its 15th edition) is a copy desk reference for student journalists on The Optimist, ACU’s student newspaper, and now offered to the public. Presented in alphabetical order, the entries provide invaluable information about the campus and the larger Abilene community. Certainly a handbook on ACU history, this book deserves a place on the reference shelf of all Abilene writers, broadcasters, historians and trivia buffs. $19.95 paperback.

New Elmer Kelton Novel Continues Ranger Series; New Western from Kent Conwell

Elmer Kelton, the masterful Western author from San Angelo who passed away in August, completed two more novels in his Texas Ranger series before he died.

The first one, Other Men’s Horses (Forge, $24.99 hardcover), came out last month. It is the eighth novel in the Ranger series. One more is due next year, which should in turn lead to a third repackaged trilogy the year after that.

Andy Pickard is back as the lead character, still serving as a Texas Ranger in the 1880s but wishing he could retire from the force and spend more time with his young wife, Bethel, on their farm. But rangering provides a more stable income than farming, and at this stage in their marriage they need the money.

He is assigned to track down a man who killed a horse thief, which he does in short order only to find the man’s associates ready to kill him. The wanted man saves Pickard’s life and then hightails it, but Pickard warns him that he will still have to hunt him down and bring him to justice.

When the wanted man’s wife sets out to join her husband, Pickard trails her. The woman stops at a prairie shack where she learns that her husband is not who she thought he was. Another horse thief shoots her husband, leaves him for dead, and takes her captive, intending to have his way with her.

Pickard and a deserter from Fort Concho who killed a man follow in pursuit as the chase takes a number of twists and turns. They cross the trail of quite a few low-life characters but also some decent folks who go out of their way to help a lady trying to make it on her own.

Days of Vengeance: Western author Kent Conwell of Port Neches has written a fast-paced tale set in Arizona territory – Days of Vengeance (Leisure Books, $6.99 paperback).

Ben Elliott and other ranchers find themselves besieged by someone who is obviously trying to drive them from their land. First come the cattle rustlers, then the stakes get considerably more deadly.

When Elliott’s best friend is killed and Elliott is cheated out of his property, he vows vengeance on the man he has determined is trying to run off all the ranchers and claim their land for himself.

Relying on the lessons learned when he lived with the Apaches as a boy, Elliott sets out to even the score and bring the offender to justice.

Conwell, a prolific author of Westerns and mysteries, also has several new titles from Avalon Books, which markets novels primarily to libraries. Recent hardback titles ($23.95) include a Western – Shootout on the Sabine – and two contemporary Tony Boudreaux mysteries – An Unmarked Grave and The Puzzle of Piri Reis. Inquire at your library about these and other Conwell stories.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Joe Nick Patoski kicks off fall Texas Author Series

The Texas Author Series, sponsored by Friends of the Abilene Public Library, has been held in the spring for the past several years. This year they've added a fall series as well.

Noon brown bag programs, free to the public, will be presented on three Mondays – Oct. 19, Nov. 2, and Nov. 16 -- at the Abilene Public Library, 202 Cedar. The Nov. 16 program will also be the annual meeting of Friends, when new officers are elected.

Kicking off the series next Monday, Oct. 19, is Joe Nick Patoski, a veteran Texas magazine writer and author whose biography of Willie Nelson: An Epic Life won the TCU Book Award as the best Texas book of the year. Come hear him talk about Willie Nelson, Texas music, and Texas culture.

Sherrie McLeroy of Aledo will tell true Texas tales on Nov. 2 from her new book, Bragging on Texas, a collection of about 50 stories of Texas firsts and bests. Her book is part of the Small Texas Books series from TCU Press. Priced at just $9.95 hardcover, they make good inexpensive birthday or stocking-stuffer gifts.

On Nov. 16 two of the authors of a great new coffee-table book, Historic Texas from the Air, will tell stories and show pictures of historical Texas sites. Author Gerald Saxon, Dean of the Library at the University of Texas at Arlington, and photographer Jack Graves will take us on a historic tour that includes downtown Abilene and Fort Phantom Hill among its 73 selected sites.

As usual, sandwich plates will be available for $4, or you can bring your own lunch. Drinks will be provided by Friends. Authors will sign books after their presentations.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

'Flagatography' book pays tribute to Texas flag

Longtime Houston Chronicle photographer E. Joe Deering noticed a Lone Star flag painted on a building in Cisco in 2002, and then he began seeing the flag on pickups and barns and gates and mailboxes and boats.
He decided there might be a photographic story there, and a few months later the Chronicle published an eight-page spread in its Sunday magazine.
That led to a “Flagatography” exhibit at the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum on the Texas A&M campus in 2005 (Deering even provided handmade frames for the 135 pictures).
Now Texas A&M University Press has published a delightful collection of Deering’s inspired photographs – Lovin’ That Lone Star Flag – an elegant coffee-table book reasonably priced at $29.95. It's one of my favorite Texas books of the year.
Ruth Rendon, a former colleague at the Chronicle, provides an informative introduction and foreword telling about the Lone Star flag itself and about Deering’s obsession with it.
Each picture is accompanied by a caption telling about the flag image portrayed and when and where it was taken.
Photographs show the flag on:
A guitar used by the band Lonestar.
Bruce Lavorgna’s Texas Lone Star balloon, Aerodactyl.
An outhouse outside Schulenburg.
A police car in Palmer.
A muffler in Dayton.
Bowling pins at a bowling alley in Lake Jackson.
A watering trough in Texas City.
A fleet of tanker trucks in Brookland.
Oil drums and cell phones in Kerrville.
An El Campo family’s basketball backboard.
A single-engine airplane in Kingsville.
A bathtub in San Marcos.
One photograph shows a couple decked out in Lone Star flag shirt and skirt for their wedding in front of the San Jacinto Monument, “where Texas won its independence,” the wife points out, “and (husband) Kenny lost his.”
There are pictures of flags on boots, spurs, caps, shirts, running shorts, arrows, golf balls, windmills, buckets, birdhouses, and steakhouses, among other uses.
Deering, not a native Texan himself, said he understands why so many people like to paint and display the Lone Star flag in so many creative ways.
“It’s just because they like being in Texas and being a Texan,” he says. “It’s that Texas pride.”

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

25 Good Reasons to Attend the West Texas Book and Music Festival

The West Texas Book & Music Festival is going on all this week in Abilene. This is the festival’s ninth year, and it is now recognized as one of the best in Texas.
Here are 25 good reasons (there are more) why you should try to take in some of the events, most of which are free thanks to the festival’s generous sponsors.

1. You will be amazed, maybe also amused, at the variety of Texas authors in the Hall of Texas Authors at the Abilene Civic Center from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday.

2. If you haven’t met Abilene author Bill Neal, come hear him tell some tales about justice on the Texas frontier. He speaks at noon Wednesday. His latest book is “Sex, Murder and the Unwritten Law.” If you can’t make his Wednesday program, he will also be in the Hall of Authors on Saturday.

3. It’s hard to describe the Grammy-winning “nuclear polka” band Brave Combo, but suffice it to say that the band plays upbeat world music that is always fun to listen to. Catch Brave Combo and the Texas Swing Kings in a concert at the Paramount Theatre at 8 p.m. Friday. Tickets are $15 and $25.

4. Kathi Appelt is one of the best children’s authors anywhere, not just in Texas. She will be part of a 9 a.m. session Saturday on Writing for Children (it’s free) and will be presented the A.C. Greene Award at the Boots & Books Luncheon at noon Saturday (tickets are $30, 691-1868).

5. One of Abilene’s best known authors is Nancy Robinson Masters. She will be on the Writing for Children panel Saturday and also will speak at the luncheon.

6. Diane Gonzales Bertrand of San Antonio writes bilingual books for children. She also will be on the Writing for Children panel, will speak at the luncheon, and will read at a story time session at the new Mockingbird Branch Library at 3:30 Saturday afternoon.

7. Bryan Burrough is the author of one of the best-selling books about Texas this year – “The Big Rich: The Rise and Fall of the Greatest Texas Oil Fortunes.” He speaks at 10 a.m. Saturday and also at the luncheon.

8-9. Two other authors who have written about Texas icons – LBJ and Shiner Beer – are speaking at 10 a.m. and at the luncheon – retired General James Cross and Dallas author Mike Renfro.

10. If you like to cook, or even eat, you ought to come hear cookbook authors Terry Thompson-Anderson, Tricia Henry and Betsy Nozick at noon Thursday at the main library.

11. If you want to get more out of your computer – for fun or profit -- let Leland Harden tell you how to do it. Noon Monday at the library. He’s the author of “Digital Engagement,” a book on Internet marketing.

12-14. Bob Favor spent his career in law enforcement, most of it as a Texas Ranger, and he has written a book about his experiences. Bob and two other storytellers, Carol Walt of Cross Plains and Murray Edwards of Clyde, speak at noon Tuesday at the library.

15. McMurry history professor Don Frazier makes history come alive, and he will talk about his newest book, “Fire in the Cane Field,” at noon Wednesday.

16. Gary Hartman is a music historian and also a musician, and he will talk and sing about Texas music history at noon Friday at the library. He also will perform at the Friday night concert.

17-20. Stop by Minter Park at noon Monday through Thursday for some free “Pickin’ in the Park” music by local musicians you will enjoy – JamisonPriest, Happy Fat, Slim Chance, and Catclaw Creek.

21. If you like to belt out the good old gospel hymns, come to the fourth annual West Texas Gospel Hymnfest at 3 p.m. Saturday at the Civic Center. Free songbooks.

22. Have you been to the exhibit for the West Texas Music Hall of Fame? The festival’s opening reception will be there at 6 p.m. Monday, Rose Park Shopping Center, 2510 S. 7th St.

23. How many Abilenians wrote a book in the past year? If you guessed 30, you’re close. See the fruits of their labor at a reception at the library, 6 p.m. Tuesday.

24. Enjoy the World-Famous Hardin-Simmons University Cowboy Band at theBoots & Books Luncheon on Saturday.

25. Read a book by a Texas author. If you need help finding one, well that’s what this week is all about.

West Texas Book & Music Festival Schedule

West Texas Book & Music Festival Schedule
September 21-26, 2009

Monday, Sept. 21
Brown Bag Program, noon, Main Library - Online Networking for Fun and Profit featuring Leland Harden - Bring your lunch or purchase a sandwich plate for $4. Drinks provided.

Pickin' in the Park, noon, Minter Park, featuring JamisonPriest.

Opening Reception, 6 P.M., West Texas Music Hall of Fame Exhibit, Rose Park Shopping Center, 2510 S. 7th Street - Reception honoring local musicians.

Tuesday, Sept. 22
Brown Bag Program, noon, Main Library – Texas storytellers Carol Walt of Cross Plains, Murray Edwards of Clyde/Abilene, Bob Favor of Clyde. Bring your lunch or purchase a sandwich plate for $4. Drinks provided.

Pickin' in the Park, noon, Minter Park, featuring Happy Fat.

Local Author Reception, 6 P.M., Main Library - Reception honoring local authors who have had a book published in the past year.

Wednesday, Sept. 23
Brown Bag Program, noon, Main Library – Texas history, Don Frazier and Bill Neal. Bring your lunch or purchase a sandwich plate for $4. Drinks provided.

Pickin' in the Park, noon, Minter Park, featuring Slim Chance and the Survivors.

Thursday, Sept. 24
Brown Bag Program, noon, Main Library – Texas cookbooks featuring Tricia Henry, Betsy Nozik, and Terry Thompson-Anderson - Bring your lunch or purchase a sandwich plate for $4. Drinks provided.

Pickin' in the Park, noon, Minter Park, featuring Catclaw Creek.

Texas Cookbook Gala, 6 P.M., Abilene Country Club - $150 Reserved tickets. Sold Out!

Friday, Sept. 25
Authors in Schools - Featured children’s authors will visit Abilene and Wylie schools throughout the day.

Brown Bag Program, noon, Main Library - History of Texas Music, Gary Hartman speaking and singing. Bring your lunch or purchase a sandwich plate for $4. Drinks provided.

Concert, 8 P.M., Paramount Theatre - Featuring Brave Combo and Texas Swing Kings. Tickets $15 and $25, available at all library locations and the Paramount Theatre.

Saturday, Sept. 26
All activities at the Abilene Civic Center

9 A.M. to 3 P.M., Hall of Texas Authors - Authors, publishers and booksellers displaying, selling, and signing books.

9 A.M., Red Carpet Area - Writing for Children Workshop, presented by Kathi Appelt,
Diane Gonzales Bertrand, and Nancy Robinson Masters

10 A.M., Conference Center - The Texas Experience – Politics, Beer, and Oil – with authors Gen. James Cross, Mike Renfro, and Bryan Burrough.

Noon, Conference Center - Boots & Books Luncheon, music by Hardin-Simmons Cowboy Band; barbecue by Harold’s. Remarks by featured authors. Presentation of the A.C. Greene Award to Kathi Appelt. Tickets $30, 691-1868.

3 P.M., Conference Center - West Texas Gospel Hymnfest, congregational singing led by Judge Lee Hamilton and pianist Sharon Leyerle. Free songbooks.

At the Mockingbird Branch Library, 1214 N. Mockingbird

3:30 P.M., Story time featuring San Antonio children’s author Diane Gonzales Bertrand.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Eulogy for Elmer Kelton

The following eulogy was delivered at the funeral of Elmer Kelton Thursday afternoon by the Rev. Ricky Burk, senior pastor at First United Methodist Church.

In his autobiography, “Sandhills Boy,” Elmer says he discovered America on April 29, 1926, at Horse Camp on the Five Wells Ranch a few miles east of Andrews, Texas. His mother often told him that it was a wet, stormy day and the first few weeks were equally stormy for Elmer and his parents. Elmer was born prematurely, and his mother kept him in a shoebox and often in the oven in order to keep him warm and help him survive those first perilous weeks.

Although he grew up on a ranch, Elmer and horses never connected. He said it might have begun before he was even able to walk. His father was working half-broken horses and his mom was sitting on the fence holding him and watching her husband. Dad decided it was time for Elmer to have his first ride, so he placed Elmer in front of him in the saddle. The bronc immediately began to pitch while Dad held on to the reigns with one hand and Elmer with the other. He calmly worked the bucking bronc around to where mom was seated on the fence and handed off Elmer like a quarterback handing off a football. Elmer said that from that day forward his relationship with horses went downhill.

The family showed me a picture of the last time Elmer was ever on a horse. He was in the Big Bend area and posed on a big, beautiful palomino for a picture. You can tell by looking at both Elmer and the horse that neither was sure what would happen next. Elmer never mounted a horse again and, years later, when plans were made for the library statue now in progress, he made the artist promise to place him next to a fence, not on a horse!

Growing up in the midst of cowboys and horses, it was always his dream to be a cowboy like his Dad. But, in addition to his lack of confidence in riding, he was seriously nearsighted. It often caused him to mess up the cattle drive by getting lost or turned around. But soon Elmer made two great discoveries: glasses and books. He was a voracious reader, immersing himself in any available print.

He missed most of fifth grade due to a mild form of tuberculosis. Forced to stay in bed most of the time, he read, wrote, and did imaginary radio broadcasts. He even made his own movies by drawing pictures on long strips of paper, then pulling them through slots in a large piece of cardboard, one at a time. From behind the cardboard he would voice the dialogue. His God-given gift was beginning to surface.

As he faced graduation from high school he began to work up the nerve to break the news to his father about his intended career. Elmer finally told him that he wanted to go to the University of Texas, study journalism and become a writer. His dad, a hard-core rancher to the bone, didn’t take it well. Elmer said, “He gave me a look that would kill Johnson grass and said, ‘That’s the problem with you kids these days, you all want to make a living without working for it.’” Elmer was never certain what his father thought about his career.

Soon the drums of war began to beat in Europe and Elmer decided to do his part and enlist in the Navy. They turned him down due to flat feet. That was no problem for the Army and when he turned 18 they accepted him. His basic training was at Fort Bliss, near El Paso. He graduated around Christmas time and was given holiday leave to a base near Gainesville, Texas. It was there he began to attend a Methodist Church. He was given a New Testament which he carried overseas and always kept in his pocket. Shortly before he shipped out he attended a service which concluded with the hymn “Just as I Am.” He said the words burned into his memory and brought him comfort during the many difficult times ahead.

Once as I visited Elmer in the nursing home I felt the need as his pastor to ask about his relationship with God. Had he made peace with God? Did he have the assurance of his salvation? Although he was lying flat on his back, he propped himself up on both elbows, looked me straight in the eye and said, “Oh yes, Preacher. I took care of that a long time ago.” I’ve always wondered if that commitment was made at that Methodist church service as he listened to the words of “Just as I Am.”

During the war Elmer was dispatched to the little Austrian town of Ebensee. There he would meet the love of his life, his wife for 62 years, Anni Lipp. In “Sandhills Boy” he says, “the course of one’s life may hinge on a chance moment, an unanticipated coincidence. It was by pure chance that I happened to be at Ebensee’s boat landing the evening of Oct. 14, 1945, and met Anni Lipp. She had a little boy named Gerhard, then four-going-on-five and without a father. By the time the relationship became serious I was deeply attached to him.” Anni would always lovingly say that Elmer was a like a stray pet: “I fed a soldier apple strudel and he kept coming back.”

But soon the war was over and Elmer was sent back stateside. He promised that he would return for Anni and Gerhard. Every day, for more than a year, he wrote her a letter. Anni said that she could read very little English but it didn’t matter because each letter meant that he would keep his promise and return for them.

Elmer finally fought his way through the red tape of government bureaucracy and brought Anni and little Gerhard home to Texas. They were married in his grandmother’s house in Midland. There was no honeymoon, only work to be done. About a week after her arrival, Elmer took Anni to Pecos to introduce her to the thrill of a rodeo. It was hot, dusty, windy, and a far cry from the beauty of Austria. She’s never been to a Pecos rodeo since.

Little Gerhard adjusted quickly. He picked up English easily from the cowboys. The only problem was that most of them were four-letter words he couldn’t repeat! The cowboys decided that Gerhard was too foreign-sounding, so they began calling him Gary for short, and Gary it still is.

Elmer, Anni and Gary soon moved to San Angelo, and he began working for the San Angelo Standard-Times. That was his day job. At night he would work on his writings, slowly enjoying success. He would eventually write over 60 books (two will come out in the near future) including “The Time It Never Rained,” “The Good Old Boys,” which Tommy Lee Jones turned into a movie, “The Wolf and the Buffalo,” “The Day the Cowboys Quit,” “The Man Who Rode Midnight” and many others I’m sure you would call your favorites.

Through the characters of his writings Elmer taught us a lot about life. His books were about basic human nature, the struggles we all face. In “Sandhills Boy” he wrote “I try to avoid superheroes, for I have never known any. The people I have known have for the most part have been common folks struggling to get along, meeting life’s obstacles with the best that is in them, or in some cases giving up and going down in defeat. Not all stories have a happy ending. Life is not that kind to us.”

In “The Time It Never Rained” he wrote, concerning his characters, “They are not the traditional Western fictional heroes, standing up to a villain for one splendid moment of glory. They are quiet but determined men and women who stand their ground year after year in a fight they can never fully win, against an unforgiving enemy they know will return to challenge them again and again so long as they live. They are the true heroes.”

In “The Good Old Boys” he writes about Hewey Calloway (his favorite character), stating “Hewey, like all of us, faces the necessity of painful choices, knowing that every choice will bring sacrifices. He knows, as we all know, that we cannot have everything we want in this life. To fulfill a wish we often must give up something of equal or nearly equal value. He cannot have it all; nobody can. In this respect, Hewey Calloway is all of us.”

To read Elmer Kelton is to understand the world itself. He recognized the human dilemma as few of us do and articulated its reality with such clarity that anyone could learn from him. He was one of life’s greatest teachers.

Elmer was named the greatest western writer of all time by the Western Writers of America. Seven times he was awarded the Spur Award for the best novel of the year. He received four Western Heritage Wrangler awards from the National Cowboy Hall of Fame, and countless awards and recognitions too numerous to list.

Yet, Elmer always said his proudest moment was when he broke the story about Billie Sol Estes to the national press in the early ’60s. The Estes scandal shook the Pecos area like an earthquake, triggering a rash of bankruptcies, at least a couple of violent deaths, the derailing of political careers and a prison sentence for Estes.

At one point it was rumored that Estes had fled the country. Estes’ attorney wanted to put that rumor to rest and decided to choose two journalists — out of hundreds — to accompany him to his hotel room where Estes was staying. One of the chosen was Elmer Kelton. Elmer wrote repeated articles about the Estes scandal and always felt it was then that he did his best work because both sides were mad at him!

As it has already been stated, history will record that Elmer didn’t write westerns — he wrote western literature. When you opened a Kelton novel you knew it would be clean enough for any member of the family to read, always historically accurate, and inspirational. He was loved by his readers; a gentle, unassuming, humble man always willing to talk to anyone, sign a stack of books, or offer advice to want-to-be writers.

And, I believe that history will also record that even though he was a great writer, he was even greater in character. To rub shoulders with Elmer Kelton made you want to be a better person and leave this world better than you found it. I will never cease to be amazed how he could achieve such fame, popularity, and, no doubt, the wealth that came with it, yet never let it change him. In a world where success is harder to handle than failure, Elmer remained untouched.

Elmer Kelton. Today we say goodbye to one of the giants in literature. He has changed our lives and made our world better. Although he has left us, we are left with the treasures of his writings.

Elmer Kelton: A Kind and Gracious Person

I received this message from an author who was befriended by Elmer Kelton:

A friend sent me an e-mail with your article on Elmer Kelton.

In 2005, several friends talked me into writing a biography of my uncle, Juan Light Salinas, a Mexican-American cowboy who roped with the best in the 1930s and 1940s. After some coaxing, I spent most of 2006 writing the book, after which Texas A&M Press agreed to publish it. In early 2007, buying a new pair of boots at a store in Cotulla, Texas, the owner encouraged me to contact Elmer and see if he would read my manuscript and provide a blurb for the cover of the book.

I drove home that day and called information in San Angelo, got his number and called him. I was pleased when he answered the phone. I explained that I wanted him to read my manuscript and if he felt proper to provide a blurb for the cover of the book. We talked for a couple of minutes, during which he graciously agreed to read the manuscript, and he felt sure provide a blurb. He went on to talk about my subject, said he had seen him rope on several occaisions. We hung up, I mailed him the manuscript, and he provided a very nice blurb. I looked forward to meeting him someday. I did not know he was ill. I contributed to the statue project, then suddenly I hear that he has passed away.

I did not know him well, but what little I did know of him, I can describe as being a very kind and gracious person, one that I regret not meeting face to face.

Ricardo Palacios
Author, Tio Cowboy

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Geronimo, Texas

We were passing through the town of Geronimo, Texas, the other day, and I wish we had stopped to get a T-shirt saying "Where the Heck is Geronimo, Texas?" that I saw a sign for.

I, like probably most people passing through the town, figured it was named for the famous Indian chief. I was wrong.

Geronimo is a small unincorporated town on Highway 123 between San Marcos and Seguin. It is named for nearby Geronimo Creek, which was in turn named to honor St. Jerome, [Mexican nickname: Geronimo, born Eusebius Hieronymus Sophronius about 340 A. D.] a Christian monk and scholar.

The home of the Navarro High School Panthers, Geronimo grew from about 250 population in 1990 to 619 in 2000, according to census figures.

Learn more about Geronimo, Texas, from the website, And Carolyn Bading has written a book -- The History of Geronimo, Guadalupe County, Texas 78115 -- which sells for $26.95 plus 6.75% Texas State Tax (no tax out of the State of Texas) plus $5.00 for shipping and handling. Contact her at P.O. Box 82, Geronimo, TX 78115.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

A Tribute to Elmer Kelton

Elmer Kelton, a giant in Texas literature and a truly decent human being and a good friend, has died at age 83.

He died peacefully in his sleep early Saturday morning, Aug. 22, 2009. He had struggled with health problems all summer.

Elmer had won so many awards he hardly had room for them in his spacious home office in San Angelo. Yet, it wasn’t the awards that drew people to him and his books. It was his writing, his humility, and his graciousness.

I got to know Elmer in December 2002. I was driving to work one morning at McWhiney Foundation Press at McMurry University, and the thought popped into my head: “I wonder if Elmer Kelton has written a Christmas book.” I Googled “Elmer Kelton, Christmas” and two stories popped up. I looked them up in the McMurry library, and of course they were excellent stories – one about Christmas at the ranch as a young boy and one about Christmas before going off to fight in World War II.

So, I took the next step. I called Elmer, who didn’t know me from Adam. It would be the beginning of a deep friendship.

I introduced myself and told him we were interested in publishing a book of his Christmas stories.

“I’ve only written two Christmas stories,” Elmer replied.

“Well, that’s all I had been able to find. If you could write one more, I think we could make a small book out of them.”

I suggested that the third story might be the Christmas he took his beloved Ann back to her home country of Austria. He had referred to that in another piece.

A few days later he wrote the third story and we had a small book, just 64 pages but with a gorgeous cover painting by H. C. Zachry and a foreword by the Texas poet laureate, Walt McDonald.

Christmas at the Ranch sold well the next Christmas, 2003, and Elmer and Ann and my wife Carol and I became friends. Ann smiled and told me it was the first book of Elmer’s she had read.

The next year Carol and I opened a Texas book and gift store – Texas Star Trading Company – in downtown Abilene. Of course, one of the first book signings we had was with Elmer Kelton. We had many more over the years, and we became good friends with Elmer and Ann. Ann baked a special Austrian dessert for us the past two Christmases.

One thing we quickly noticed at these book signings was how reverently his readers felt about him. A common occurrence: An older man and woman would get in line to have a book signed. When they would get to the front, the man would hand Elmer the book to sign and his wife would ask if they could have their picture taken together. The man would stand by Elmer and the wife would snap their picture. It was like the couple had finally had a chance to meet their hero – not a sports star or an astronaut or a politician, but a writer. A writer who touched something in their common experience.

Elmer would stay as long as people wanted him to sign books. We usually scheduled his signings from 1-3 p.m. on Saturdays, but rarely did he finish before 3:30 or 4. One reason his signings ran long was because so many people would want to tell him that his book, The Time It Never Rained, must have been written about their father or uncle or grandfather.

I heard Elmer say on several occasions that The Time It Never Rained was his favorite of all the books he wrote. And it was the favorite of most of his fans as well. Several years ago I included it in my list of “10 Great Books for Your Texas Library.” You can see the full list at

A funny story: The first Saturday of December in 2007 Elmer and Ann were at Texas Star for a book signing. It was a huge day. People not only bought his books but other things in the store as well. By mid-afternoon, it was clear that this would be the biggest sales day in the history of our store, eclipsing the sales record set by the iconoclastic Kinky Friedman, who had run for governor on the ticket, “Why the hell not?”

“Elmer,” I said, “you have just set a record for sales in our store, even more than Kinky Friedman. Maybe you ought to consider running for governor.”

Elmer immediately deadpanned, “Why the hell not?” and everyone broke up.

Elmer’s writing, his wonderful stories, will live on for years to come. But, oh, how we will miss his wry wit, his smile, his humility, his character, his great spirit. He was truly one of a kind, a Sandhills boy from West Texas who touched many, many lives.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Gertrude Beasley: The Rest of the Story

A Texas literary mystery – “Whatever Happened to Gertrude Beasley?” -- has been solved. Sort of.

Edna Gertrude Beasley -- who graduated from Simmons College in Abilene in 1914, taught school in West Texas and Chicago, and traveled the world as a journalist -- wrote a provocative autobiography published in Paris in 1925, My First Thirty Years.

The graphic language and content of the book resulted in it being banned in England despite a positive review by one of America’s best-known critics, H. L. Mencken, who called it “the first genuinely realistic picture of the Southern poor white trash.”

“Thirty years ago,” the book began, “I lay in the womb of a woman, conceived in a sexual act of rape, being carried during the prenatal period by an unwilling and rebellious mother, finally bursting from the womb only to be tormented in a family whose members I despised or pitied…”

She went on to tell how one of her first memories was her 16-year-old brother pressing down on top of her trying to rape her when she was 4, among other gruesome, explicit and lurid details.

In early 1928, at age 35, Gertrude Beasley vanished, as far as anyone knew. No one had been able to trace her whereabouts since.

And many have tried, including novelist Larry McMurtry, Texas literature authority Don Graham, and author Bert Almon, all of whom have written about Beasley over the years. Actress Veronica Russell performed a 90-minute one-woman off-Broadway show in New York four years ago based on Beasley’s book.

Among those who have developed a keen interest in Beasley is Alice Specht, dean of libraries at Hardin-Simmons University. Over the years Specht has acquired an impressive collection of information about Beasley and has corresponded with family members and others seeking details about the writer’s life after 1928.

On Jan. 7, 1928, while aboard the ship the S.S. Republic, Beasley wrote a long letter to the U.S. Secretary of State claiming that the British government owed her $25,000 for arresting her, trying to deport her and conspiring against her as a writer.

And that was the last anyone heard of Gertrude Beasley.

Until a couple of years ago when researcher John Cummings wrote Specht that he had found evidence from the 1930 U.S. census that Beasley may have been residing in a Suffolk County, New York, mental facility.

However, Cummings and Specht were unable to confirm that she was the same Gertrude Beasley they were looking for. Specht tried to get more information from the institution but couldn’t because she had no family standing.

Earlier this year, Specht received an e-mail out of the blue from a Fort Worth relative of Beasley’s – Juanita Jones – granddaughter of one of Beasley’s brothers. Jones said she had just learned of the Beasley book and asked Specht’s help in locating a copy.

Specht told Jones about the 1930 census, and Jones inquired to Suffolk County as a family member.

Last month, Specht received an e-mail from Jones which included a copy of the Suffolk County death certificate for “Edna Beasley,” a single, white, female writer born in Texas on Edna Gertrude Beasley’s known birthday, June 20. It listed her father as William Beasley, which was Gertrude’s father’s name.

The certificate showed that Beasley died at the Central Islip State Hospital in New York on July 27, 1955. Further, it noted that she had lived at the mental facility for 27 years, six months, and eight days, or since early 1928.

Additionally, Jones said she had discovered information written by one of Gertrude’s brothers in 1967 that said she was sent to a mental institution, but “she was no more crazy than you or I” and even ran the facility’s bookkeeping department. He implied that publishing tycoon William Randolph Hearst, who owned several of the publications Beasley wrote for as a journalist, had her committed.

The death certificate said Beasley died of pancreatic cancer and that she had also suffered from dementia and paranoia.

So was Gertrude Beasley crazy, or was she put away because she was too outspoken? That part of the mystery still remains.

More About Gertrude Beasley

H. L. Mencken, reviewing My First Thirty Years: This book, I suspect, comes out with a Paris imprint because no American publisher would risk printing it…. The book is a social document of the utmost interest. It presents the first genuinely realistic picture of the Southern poor white trash ever heard of. The author has emancipated herself from her native wallow, but she does not view it with superior sniffs. Instead, she frankly takes us back to it, and tells us all she knows about its fauna, simply and honestly. There is frequent indignation in her chronicle, but never any derision. Her story interests her immensely, and she is obviously convinced that it should be interesting to others. I think she is right.

Don Graham, in his book Lone Star Literature, an Anthology: One of the least known of Texas memoirists, Beasley is easily the most shocking and sensational.

Larry McMurtry: (Her book) is one of the finest Texas books of its era; in my view, the finest.

Robert McAlmon, who published My First Thirty Years: In the publishing of some twenty books only two authors got “temperamental” and they were both Gertrudes, Stein and Beasley, and may it be said, both megalomaniacs with an idea that to know them was to serve them without question about their demands.

Article from the London Telegraph, June 27, 1925: London – Police authorities here today failed in their efforts to bring about the deportation of Miss Edna Beasley, an American newspaperwoman whose home is in Texas, on charges that she is writing an indecent book on American life.

Miss Beasley was arrested for failure to comply with a police regulation requiring the registration of all aliens. Urging their disapproval of her book as sufficient grounds, the police sought a deportation order.

The authoress’s attorney declared her book is merely a portrayal of american life and as such in no way offends decency. He said it would be brought out in France by the same firm which published Joyce’s Ulysses.

Miss Beasley was fined $25 for failing to register as an alien, but the request of the police for her deportation was not complied with. As a newspaper writer, she has worked on the Pacific coast, Chicago and New York papers.

From the 1914 Bronco yearbook, Simmons College, Abilene: Gertrude has made her work by attending the spring, summer and fall terms, and teaching during the winter. She is a very successful teacher. Doesn’t believe in sparing the rod... Her work in building up rural communities is very commendable.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

We're All on Facebook Now

When it came to writing letters
We had all but forgotten how,
But then we discovered computers,
And we’re all on Facebook now.

Carrie posts pix of her grandkids,
From Ann comes her mama’s chow-chow,
Roy Gene really hates the government,
And we’re all on Facebook now.

Yes, Mary Lou, I still love you,
I want that to come through somehow,
Though I must admit you’ve aged a bit,
And we’re all on Facebook now.

So many good mem’ries to share
If time will us gently allow
To hang on a while and share a smile --
‘Cause we’re all on Facebook now.

Glenn Dromgoole

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Award Honors Lou Rodenberger

Texas Tech University Press is creating the Lou Halsell Robenberger Prize in Texas History and Literature honoring one of Texas’s most beloved literary figures, Dr. Lou Rodenberger, who died on April 9.

Lou taught for many years at McMurry University in Abilene and was an author, editor, and loving literary advocate for books about Texas, and especially West Texas.

The award in her honor will carry a cash prize as well as publication of a manuscript “on or by a woman whose writing illuminates Texas history, culture and letters, especially in West Texas and the Texas Border Region.”

The first deadline for manuscripts (50,000 to 90,000 words) is Sept. 15, 2011, and the winning entry will be published in 2013.

For more information, see the Texas Tech University Press web site –

Book on 42 in Fourth Edition

Texas Tech University Press has come out with the fourth edition of Winning 42: Strategy and Lore of the National Game of Texas, first published in 1997.

Written by Dennis Roberson of Fort Worth, a 42 champion himself, the award-winning paperback book ($15.95) offers useful information for the beginner and the veteran 42 player alike.

The new edition is updated with more stories, more strategies, and clearer illustrations and type.

If you don’t know what 42 is, then you must not have lived in Texas very long. It’s a game played with dominoes by two teams of two players each. The teams bid against each other, and the team members work together to try to reach their bid or keep the other team from reaching its bid.

The name “42” reflects the fact that there are 35 points (“count”) in even fives, plus seven hands of four dominoes per hand or “trick.” The 35 points are the six-four, the five-five, the four-one, the three-two, and the five-oh.

In an interview on the Texas Tech Press web site, Roberson says the purpose of his book is to keep the game of 42 alive, and that seems to be happening, given that it is now into its fourth edition.

The game, he says, “was invented by two Texas teenagers in the late 1880s and passed down orally for generations, spreading across Texas like wildfire. It is truly a Texas cultural phenomenon.”

That may well be true, but one of the best 42 players I ever encountered was from Arkansas. We played some wild 42 games at Texas A&M back in the day, and Bill from Arkansas was the most daring bidder I ever played against. He was fun to play with, much more so than the stoic West Texan I was often paired with who wouldn’t offer a bid unless he had a “lay-down” hand. Even then, he would rarely bid more than 30 – the minimum opening bid.

Roberson says 42 “has been played by presidents, governors, singers, writers and astronauts. Once people learn it, they can’t seem to get enough of it.”

I haven’t played in years myself, but it’s good to see that the author is helping to introduce a great game to a new generation of players.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Ann Whitaker Book Signing

Former Abilene High School English teacher Ann Whitaker will sign copies of her first novel, Dog Nanny, from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Thursday (Aug. 13) at Texas Star Trading Company, 174 Cypress Street in downtown Abilene.

Her story, about a woman who seems to be much better at relationships with dogs than with men, fits in with Thursday night's ArtWalk theme, the Dog Days of Summer.

Whitaker and her husband, former Abilene Reporter-News columnist Bill Whitaker, moved to Waco several years ago. The novel is set in Abilene and Waco.

For more details, call 325-672-9696.

New Biographies Teach Children About Texas Heroes

Two new series of biographies for children about Texas heroes have been launched by Bright Sky Press, formerly of Albany, now of Houston.

One series is for children in the primary grades, ages 5-7. The other series is intended for elementary students ages 8-11.

Veteran children’s author Mary Dodson Wade, a former teacher and librarian, has written all but one of the first seven books in the two series – two for younger readers and five for the older ones.

Sam Houston: Standing Firm and Jane Long: Choosing Texas, both by Wade, lead off the series for the primary grades.

For an example of the easy-reading writing style, the Sam Houston book begins like this: “Sam Houston was a big man. He did big things. He did not always do what other people thought he should. He did what he thought was right. Even when people said he was a bad leader, he did not listen.”

Joy Fisher Hein illustrated the Sam Houston book, Virginia Marsh Roeder the Jane Long book. Each book is $16.95.

The series for older readers is written in a more narrative style, with 10-12 chapters. Most chapters are just three or four pages long and include black and white illustrations.

The first five books in that series are: Stephen F. Austin: The Son Becomes Father of Texas, Jane Long: Texas Journey, David Crockett: Hero and Legend, Gregorio Esparza: Alamo Defender, and Sam Houston: I Am Houston.

Wade is the author of all but the Esparza biography which was written by William R. Chemerka. Don Collins, Pat Finney and Roeder provide the illustrations. Books in this series are also $16.95.

Upcoming volumes in the primary series will focus on Crockett and Austin. Coming soon in the elementary series are biographies of Henrietta King and Juan Seguin.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Dixie Cash Book Signing at Texas Star on Saturday, August 8

Two West Texas sisters who write under the pen name Dixie Cash will be in Abilene Saturday, Aug. 8, to sign copies of their fifth novel, Curing the Blues With a New Pair of Shoes.

The sisters, Pam Cumbie and Jeffery McClanahan, grew up in rural West Texas. Cumbie, a former resident of Abilene, now lives in Arlington. McClanahan, who also writes romance novels under several pen names, lives in Granbury.

Several years ago they started writing romantic suspense novels with humorous titles. Their first book was Since You’re Leaving Anyway, Take Out the Trash, followed by My Heart May Be Broken, But My Hair Still Looks Great; I Gave You My Heart, But You Sold It Online, and Don’t Make Me Choose Between You and My Shoes.

The novels feature two West Texas hairstylists who double as detectives, Debbie Sue Overstreet and Edwina Perkins Martin, in the fictional town of Salt Lick. The new book includes Edwina’s husband’s recipe for “Flaming-Hot Armadillo Eggs.”

McClanahan and Cumbie will sign books from 1-3 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 8, at Texas Star Trading Company, 174 Cypress Street. For more information or to reserve copies of the book, call 325-672-9696.

Four Texas Novelists Spin Readable Tales

Texas is full of great stories, and fortunately we have some terrific story-tellers to tell them. Here are four you might want to check out:

The Color of Lightning by Paulette Jiles (William Morrow, $25.99 hardcover).

Jiles has written two best-selling novels,Stormy Weather and Enemy Women. Her latest novel is based on the true story of ex-slave Britt Johnson, who settles in Comanche territory in West Texas in the 1860s.

While the Civil War rages, Johnson faces his own trials as his family is attacked by Comanches while Britt is away on business. He vows to bring his family back together again, and that is the principal plotline of this fast-paced historical novel.

Blood Lines by Kathryn Casey (St. Martin’s, $24.99 hardcover).

Casey has written several true crime books, and last year she penned her first novel,
Singularity, starring a new heroine, Sarah Armstrong, a criminal profiler with the Texas Rangers and a single mom.

Casey and Armstrong are back for a sequel in Blood Lines. The story follows two cases Armstrong is tracking – the apparent (maybe too apparent) suicide of oil businesswoman Billie Cox and the threatening e-mails sent by a stalker to teen pop star Cassidy Collins in advance of her upcoming Texas concerts.

Casey knows how to keep readers turning the pages to get to the stirring conclusion.

Don’t Let It Be True by Jo Barrett (Avon, $13.99 paperback).

The third novel from Texas author Jo Barrett is a fun read and offers plenty of over-the-top Texas stereotypes.

Don't Let It Be True is the tale of Houston socialite Kathleen King, who has a dirty little secret -- she's flat broke.

Kathleen manages to put up a good front, with her boyfriend footing the bill for her fancy apartment inside the loop, and her stylish wardrobe coming from vintage clothing stores.

However, everything falls apart when her boyfriend's oil fortune is lost, and Kathleen must still manage to put on her famous King Foundation annual dinner, lavishly done with all the bells and whistles expected by creme de la creme of Houston society.

Although predictable, this novel is a relaxing summer read -- perfect for an afternoon by the pool.

The Summer Kitchen by Lisa Wingate (New American Library, $15 paperback).

Wingate, the popular and prolific author from Clifton, has a new novel just released in July.

The Summer Kitchen is the second book in the Blue Sky Hill Series, which began last year with A Month of Summer. Set in a transitional Dallas neighborhood, this story is told in alternating chapters in the voices of two very different characters.

SandraKaye Darden is a suburban mom whose comfortable life is coming unraveled. Cass Blue is a runaway from foster care with her older brother Rusty, trying to make it on their own in Dallas.

Soon their lives intersect and are changed in profound ways. As always, Wingate’s stories are uplifting and wholesome, dealing with matters like friendship, grace, and the power to make a difference in other’s lives.

Jenkins Collection Recaps 60 Years of Golf Writing

Dan Jenkins has covered professional golf as a newspaper and magazine writer for nearly six full decades, beginning in 1951 when Ben Hogan won the U.S. Open.

At last count, he had been there for 58 Masters Tournaments, 55 U.S. Opens, 44 PGAs, and 40 British Opens – 197 majors in all, and still going.

He has collected edited versions of 94 of his favorite stories, columns, and feature articles into Jenkins at the Majors: Sixty Years of the World’s Best Golf Writing, from Hogan to Tiger (Doubleday, $26.95).

Jenkins wrote for the Fort Worth Press and Dallas Times Herald before moving onto the national sports stage at Sports Illustrated and Golf Digest. He’s had the privilege of knowing personally all of the major golf stars in his lifetime, including Byron Nelson, who actually had retired from the game before Jenkins came along.

Nelson, he writes, “was as lovely a gentleman and as great a champion as ever played the game.”

About Ben Hogan, Jenkins says, “I suppose earning Ben Hogan’s friendship, coooperation, and, to some degree, his respect has been the greatest treasure of this journey.” He has high marks for other superstars like Sam Snead, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, and Tiger Woods.

He pays special tribute to Nicklaus, calling him “the most interesting,, cooperative, and informative athlete I’ve ever interviewed in any sport, ever.”

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Five Years at Texas Star

Five years ago today, we opened Texas Star Trading Company as a Texas book, gift and music store. Today we are celebrating our fifth birthday with cake, balloons, a ribbon cutting and free gifts from 10-2.

If you haven't checked out our web site, it is

We opened in a small 750-square-foot space in the restored Wooten Hotel next to the Paramount Theatre. Two years ago we moved up the street to 174 Cypress, a space almost four times the size of our original store.

When we started, we filled the room with books and some Texas gifts. Since then, we've added T-shirts, souvenirs, gourmet, jewelry, and most recently party items such as cocktail napkins, plates, cups, wine bags -- many of them with humorous sayings.

Books continue to be an important part of our store. Tom Perini's cookbook -- Texas Cowboy Cooking -- has been our best-selling book of any genre all five years that we've been open.

We reserve some shelves for Elmer Kelton's western novels, and Elmer has been so kind to do numerous book signings at Texas Star. He always draws a crowd.

Kinky Friedman drew huge crowds all three times he signed books at Texas Star. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison has had two very good book signings at our store. And so many other authors have sat and signed books during ArtWalk, Downtown Dayz and other events.

We have a guest book, and over the years we have had visitors from all 50 states and, at last count, about 50 foreign countries. Right here in Abilene!

To all who have shopped with us these past five years, thank you. If you haven't had a chance to come by, we're at 174 Cypress St. at the corner of N. 2nd and Cypress. You'll see the Texas flags flying. Or check us out on the web.


Glenn and Carol Dromgoole

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Texas Brags, Buried Treasure, War Memorials

Sherrie S. McLeRoy has collected about 50 true Texas tales in her book, “Braggin’ on Texas” (TCU Press, $9.95 hardcover, part of the press’s Texas Small Books series).
Among them:

Mollie Bailey was the first woman to own and run a circus in the United States. Mollie lived in Texas at the time and flew the Texas flag over her circus tent wherever she went.

Collin Street Bakery in Corsicana, for better or worse, is the largest producer of fruitcake in the world.

Daisy Dean Doolin of San Antonio invented the Frito pie.

Vern Dalhart, born Marion Slaughter in the Texas town of Jefferson, had the first country music hit to sell a million copies – “The Wreck of the Old ’97.

Cindy Walker of Mexia, who died in 2006, is the only American songwriter to make the Top Ten list in five successive decades.

The statue of Sam Houston outside Huntsville is the tallest statue of an American hero at 67 feet tall (77 feet counting the 10-foot base).

In 1929 a Texan, Bill Williams, became the first person to push a peanut up Pike’s Peak – with his nose. It took him 20 days and he wore out 170 pair of pants.

The Tyler Civitan Club was the first organization, in Texas and the U.S., to adopt a highway, and that was just 25 years ago.

Buried Treasure: Another book in the TCU Press Small Book Series is Patrick Dearen’s “Lone Star Lost: Buried Treasures in Texas” ($9.95 hardcover).

Dearen relates stories about a gold-laden wagon supposedly hidden in a lost cave, buried outlaw gold, Comanche jewels, and seven other tales of alleged wealth lost but not forgotten.

War Memorials: The Texas State Historical Association continues its series of small, informative paperback books on Texas history with Kelly McMichael’s “Sacred Memories: The Civil War Monument Movement in Texas” ($9.95).

McMichael tells the stories behind the various Civil War monuments in 60 Texas communities. Most pay respects to fallen Confederate soldiers, but a few also honor Union troops as well.

The book is divided into six sections geographically – East Texas, North Texas, Central Texas, the Panhandle and West Texas, South Texas, and Southeast Texas.

Taken together, the monuments relate the history of Texas and the Civil War. And you can take the tour without leaving home.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Local History in Plain Sight

Abilene High social studies teacher Jay Moore has created a new TV series on Abilene's cable channel 7 called "History in Plain Sight." The first episode aired on Tuesday and will be replayed several times in the next couple of weeks.

Through the generosity of the Dian Graves Owen Foundation and the sponsorship of the Abilene Preservation League, Jay is funded for five programs and hopes to do many more.

Basically, what he hopes to do is take elements from Abilene's past that are still visible today and tell the history of what they stood for and what they say about our heritage and our city today.

His first program focused on the Bankhead Highway, which ran right through the middle of Abilene. It was the first paved transcontinental highway in the U.S. There are still segments of the old highway visible today as well as motels and other business establishments that owe their founding to Bankhead travelers.

My friend Joe Specht, retired librarian at McMurry who has a keen -- some might say fanatical -- interest in the Bankhead, was one of the experts interviewed on camera. Jay Moore narrated the program himself and did a beautiful job. The camera work, the story line, everything about it was first rate. The program ran about 40 minutes.

Probably not too many people saw it because it hasn't received any kind of media attention yet, as far as I know, though surely that will change. I knew about it because Bill Minter of the Abilene Preservation League sent out an e-mail.

Anyway, it will be shown again aat 4 p.m. Saturday, , July 18; 8 p.m. Sunday, July 26; 7 p.m. Tuesday, July 28, and 8 p.m. Saturday, August 1.

DVD copies are available from Jay Moore for $10 ($11.60 with postage). Contact him at

The second program will focus on the people behind Abilene street names. Stay tuned for air times.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

So Many Beach Books, So Little Beach Time

So you’re looking for a good beach, mountain or poolside read?
Well, here are three to consider:

Sworn to Silence by Linda Castillo (St. Martin’s, $24.95 hardcover) is more than fast-paced enough for men or women readers.

Although Castillo is known as a romantic mystery writer, there isn’t a lot of romance in this one, but there is plenty of suspense.

The principal character is Kate Burkholder, police chief in a small town with a dominant Amish influence. Kate herself was Amish before she strayed from the fold after the violent assault that has remained a family secret all these years.

Now that assault figures prominently in a series of murders that rocks Burkholder’s small town, threatens to reveal her family’s secret, and puts her life in danger.

Unidentified Texas Objects: Tales from the Weird, Wild West is Carol Walt’s latest book (AuthorHouse, $16, softcover).

The novel is a collection of short stories and a novella set in the fictional town of Brangus, Texas, which has certain similarities to the West Texas town of Cross Plains.

“The stories are meant to be amusing, perhaps thought provoking, and some of them have a little surprise for the reader,” she writes.

This is Walt’s fifth novel, and if you read one of her books you will probably go back for more. She is that good.

Carol is autographing books Thursday night (July 9) from 6-7:30 at Texas Star Trading Company. E-mail Texas Star at if you would like a signed copy.

Unidentified Texas Objects begins with a story set at an Abilene Air Force base (called Dugeness instead of Dyess). Tillie, from Brangus, has an appointment with a general to tell him about these weird sightings she has witnessed.

He seems to take her seriously, and in fact he takes her more seriously than she is led to believe. Meanwhile, all evidence of her visit to the base is obliterated.

“Buck and Sissy” is a tale of two lovers who turn out to be – well, let’s not spoil the story.

Walt even features herself as the main character in one story, “Stranger Than Fiction,” that involves investigators from the Department of Public Safety and the federal Homeland Security office.

Dog Nanny by Ann Whitaker (Wild Rose Press, $14.99 softcover) is the first novel by a Waco (formerly Abilene) author and teacher.

Whitaker combines her love of dogs, romance and mystery to weave a tale revolving around Julie Shields, a vet tech at an Abilene veterinary clinic who is called to Waco to help save a marriage.

Huh? Well, the wife in the marriage is so attached to her poodles that she gives them the total run of her mansion, including the bedroom. Her macho husband gives her an ultimatum: get the dogs under control or he will leave her.

Julie is called in to train the dogs, but the wife places unreasonable restrictions on how she can do that. Meanwhile, there is this very charming pilot who flies Julie to the mansion and takes an obvious interest in her. He is not what she is looking for in a husband, but, oh, how the sparks fly.

The sparks almost ignite a blaze during a passionate bedroom scene until, well, you might say there is doggus interruptus.

Whitaker will sign books from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 13, during the Dog Days ArtWalk downtown at Texas Star Trading Company.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Beautiful New Texas Cookbook

I got a sneak peek and an advance copy of a sensational new Texas cookbook by noted Fort Worth chef Jon Bonnell. The book is Fine Texas Cuisine and it's due out in August from Gibbs Smith Publishing for $30.

It's a gorgeous full-color book with enticing recpies for such things as:

-- Rack of Blackbuck Antelope with Wild Mushroom and Dijon Mustard Sauce.
-- Rocky Mountain Elk Tacos
-- Texas Ostrich Fan Fillet with Sherry-Laced Mushrooms
-- Pheasant Stuffed with Goat Cheese and Herbs in Phyllo

You know, the kind of meals you whip out when you get home from work. Just the other night we were debating whether to have Duck Meatballs Marinara, Quail Raviolis, or Seared Duck Breast with Wild Mushroom and Cabernet Demiglace. Maybe with a side order of Jalapeno Parmesan Creamed Spinach or an appetizer of Buffalo-Style Frog Legs with Gorgonzola Dippping Sauce, followed by Dublin Dr Pepper Float with Cinnamon Buneulo Cookies for dessert. Or perhaps Blueberry and Peach Beggar's Purse with Orange and Ginger Sauce.

The cookbook cover has a mouth-watering photo of Grass-Fed Texas Rib-Eye with Three-Pepper Compound Butter. And it only gets better!

If you would like to invite me over for Wild Boar Chops with Peach Barbeque Sauce, just say when.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Best Fried Chicken

We were in Dallas last weekend and decided to eat at a fried chicken place recommended by Texas Monthly -- Bubba's. It's in Highland Park. on Hillcrest between Lover's Lane and Mockingbird.

Carol and I each ordered the two-piece dinner (leg and breast). She had mashed potatoes and green beans; I had mashed potatoes and okra & tomatoes. It was a good dinner, but we both came to the same conclusion: it wasn't anywhere close to the best fried chicken we had eaten.

The best would have to be Ellen Webb's, which is featured in her cookbook, You'll Be Going Back for Seconds. Ellen is my mother-in-law, so I'm sure I am biased, but I'll put her chicken up against anyone's. I also included a chapter about Ellen's fried chicken in my book, A Small Town in Texas.

A close second would be the The Judge's fried chicken served at Perini's Steakhouse as part of its Sunday-only buffet. Tom Perini is also a cookbook author. His book, Texas Cowboy Cooking, is on my list of 10 Great Books for Your Texas Library and has been the best-selling book, of any genre, at Texas Star Trading Company all five years that we have been open.

Ellen's and Tom's chicken is not over-battered like so much commercial fried chicken you find these days. And Ellen and Tom both cut up their chicken so that there is a pulley bone. or wishbone, which is becoming a lost art, I'm afraid.

Back to Bubba's. We filled up on just one piece (the breast) and the veggies and the excellent yeast rolls, so we took our leftover pieces back and put them in the fridge in our hotel room. I'm pleased to report that Bubba's passes one important test of good fried chicken: it is as good, if not better, cold as hot.

By the way, you can get autographed copies of Ellen's and Tom's cookbooks, as well as A Small Town in Texas, from

Friday, June 26, 2009

Cookbook Offers Recipe for Happy Family Life

Judy Alter, editor of TCU Press for 23 years and author of numerous children’s books and historical titles, has written a cookbook that is more than a cookbook..

The book is filled with recipes, but it also tells her story of how food has been a big part of her family’s life through various changes over the years.

The book, Cooking My Way through Life with Kids and Books (State House Press, $18.95 paperback), includes 160 recipes. She also offers her "recipe for a happy family." It goes like this:

"Start with a lot of love.

"Mix in some firm rules, respect, a willingness to share, and a willingness to listen. Season with lots of laughter, more than a few pets, a lot of ‘extended family,’ and frequent meals together.

"Stir and mix frequently. Gets better with age."

Judy is retiring from TCU Press next month, so she’ll have time to try out even more recipes.

Texas Flags: Robert Maberry Jr., author of the award-winning book Texas Flags, takes up residence this fall as a history professor at Abilene’s McMurry University.

And Texas A&M University Press, which published Texas Flags, is bringing out a paperback edition of the coffee-table book this summer. It will sell for $29.95.

Also joining the McMurry history faculty is noted Texas historian, author and Alamo movie consultant Steve Hardin, who moves to Abilene from Victoria College. Among Hardin’s books are Texian Iliad and Texian Macabre.

Maberry and Hardin replace Robert Pace, who is entering the Episcopal seminary in Austin this fall, and Bob Wettemann, who has moved to Fort Bragg, N.C., as an Army historian.

New Novel: Former Abilene Reporter-News entertainment editor Bob Lapham has released a new novel -- his fifth book – Ethan’s Keys ($17.95 paperback,

The story revolves around Ethan Crowe, 73, and his 25-year-old nephew, Rob, who barely know each other as the story begins. Ethan has served time in prison for white-collar crime. Rob is searching for meaning in his life.

The novel, says Lapham, "is about a man’s unique gift for seeing the blessed simplicity of God’s grace through Jesus, then through extraordinary dedication and compassion, passing it on."

The story, he adds, "deals with poverty, wealth, infidelity, sex, murder, and more through a dozen interesting characters who drift in and out of Rob’s and Ethan’s evolving relationship."

While a student at Texas Tech, Lapham was a back-up vocalist to rock and roll legend Buddy Holly. In 2003 Lapham published a novel based on his experiences called Meet Me at the River Buddy Holly.

Read more about Ethan’s Keys at

Coming Back in Print: Fans of novelist Jane Roberts Wood will be happy to learn that two of her more recent novels will be back in print this fall.

Grace and Roseborough are being reissued in paperback in October ($19.95 each) by the University of North Texas Press, which also published the paperback editions of her acclaimed trilogy – The Train to Estelline, A Place Called Sweet Shrub and Dance a Little Longer.

Wood has won a number of literary awards, including the A.C. Greene Award, and her novel The Train to Estelline has made several lists of top Texas books of all time. It’s on my list of 10 Great Books for Your Texas Library.

Texas Almanac: The Texas Almanac, first published in 1857, has switched homes.

The 2010-2011 edition, due out in November, will now be under the auspices of the Texas State Historical Association instead of the Belo Corporation and the Dallas Morning News.

The historical association itself moved last year from Austin to Denton. Its offices are now on the campus of the University of North Texas.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

I Have Been Diagnosed with a Fatal Disease

This is the title poem in my book I Have Been Diagnosed with a Fatal Disease and Other Poems:

I have been diagnosed with a fatal disease.
Everyone who gets this disease eventually dies.

I don’t know how long I have, but I think
I should try to make the most of every day.

Come to terms with what is ultimately important.
Spend more time with those I love.

Take more time to appreciate every breath,
every sunrise, every kiss, every smile, every word.

Worry less and enjoy more.
Make my corner of the world a little better place.

For, after all, I don’t know how much longer
I will be around.

I have been diagnosed with a fatal disease.
It’s called life – and there is no cure.

My book, I Have Been Diagnosed with a Fatal Disease and Other Poems, is a collection of 64 short poems -- some serious, some light. I will post others on this blog from time to time.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Four New Books by Texas Authors

A Mouse Goes to School

Abilene author Rita Rose Rasco and artist Debra H. Warr have teamed up to produce a delightful and entertaining children’s book with an important message.

"Mozzarella House Mouse Goes to School" ($10 paperback) tells the story of Kristi, a little girl who wears leg braces, and her tiny mouse friend, Mozzarella.

Kristi decides to sneak Mozzarella in with her on the first day of first grade. When Mozzie gets loose in the school cafeteria, chaos ensues as workers try to catch the little mouse. Finally, a rude red-haired boy grabs her and swings her around by her tail while describing her as a "rat" and "the ugliest pet."

Kristi’s friends learn some valuable lessons about friendship, kindness, and acceptance.

If you can’t find the book at a bookstore, contact the author at or (325) 692-0086.

Retelling of an Old Tale

Canyon journalist, educator, author and poet Donald Mace Williams has published "Wolfe," a poetry chapbook that is a brilliant retelling of the epic poem "Beowulf" in a contemporary setting in Palo Duro Canyon.

"In keeping with my purpose of modernizing the Beowulf episodes," Williams explains, "I have used rhymed couplets, rather than the Old English alliterative verse form"

Here is how it begins:

"Fat Herefords grazed on rich brown grass,
"Tom Rogers watched three winters pass,
"Then, all his ranch paid off, designed
"A bunkhouse, biggest of its kind."

To order the 28-page chapbook ($6.50 including tax), contact the author at 2920 Mable Drive, Canyon 79015, or go to

Texas in the Civil War

Kenneth W. Howell, assistant professor at Prairie View A&M University, is the editor of a collection of scholarly essays, "The Seventh Star of the Confederacy: Texas during the Civil War" (University of North Texas Press, $34.95 hardcover).

Among the pieces:

"Explaining the Causes of the Civil War: A Texas Perspective" by James Smallwood.

"Hide Your Daughters: The Yankees Have Arrived in the Coastal Bend, 1863" by Charles D. Spurlin.

"The Confederate Governors of Texas" by Kenneth E. Hendrickson Jr.

"On the Edge of First Freedoms: Black Texans and the Civil War" by Ronald E. Goodwin and Bruce A. Glasrud.

Big Bend Adventures

Gary Clark, a nature columnist and college dean from Houston, is the author of "Enjoying Big Bend National Park: A Friendly Guide to Adventures for Everyone" (Texas A&M University Press, $17.95 flexbound).

The book, which includes more than 50 color photographs by Kathy Adams Clark, is a compact, concise and easy to read guide to the park.

Clark includes two-hour adventures, half-day adventures, a full-day adventure, adventures with families and small children, adventures for the physically fit, adventures at an easy pace, adventures for people with limited physical mobility, adventures in a vehicle, and adventures for nature lovers.

Kathi Appelt Named A.C. Greene Award Winner

Kathi Appelt of College Station, author of more than 30 books for children and young adults, is the winner of the 2009 A.C. Greene Award, given annually by Friends of the Abilene Public Library to a distinguished Texas author.

The award will be presented on Saturday, Sept. 26, at the Boots & Books Luncheon of the West Texas Book & Music Festival at the Abilene Civic Center.

Appelt's most recent book, The Underneath, intended for readers ages 9-12, has won national recognition as a Newbery Honor Book, among other accolades.

Appelt joins a distinguished list of Texas authors to receive the A.C. Greene Award, first presented in 2001. They are:

2001 - John Graves, Glen Rose
2002 - Walt McDonald, Lubbock
2003 - Elmer Kelton, San Angelo
2004 - Sandra Brown, Fort Worth
2005 - Liz Carpenter, Austin
2006 - Jane Roberts Wood, Argyle
2007 - Carlton Stowers, Cedar Hill
2008 - Don Graham, Austin

For more information about the West Texas Book & Music Festival, go to the web site at and then click on the festival icon. For luncheon reservations, at $30 each, send checks to FOL, 202 Cedar Street, Abilene, TX 79601.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Dixie Cash Coming to Texas Star

Jeffery McClanahan and Pamela Cumbie grew up in West Texas and now live in the DFW area. They write bestselling novels together under the delightful name of DIXIE CASH.

Their novels have wonderful titles, beginning with "Since You're Leaving Anyway, Take Out the Trash" (2004). They followed that with "My Heart May Be Broken But My Hair Still Looks Great" (2005); "I Gave You My Heart and You Sold It Online" (2006); and "Don't Make Me Choose Between You and My Shoes" (2008).

Now comes novel number five, also with a shoe theme (fettish?) -- "Curing My Blues with a New Pair of Shoes" --due out in July.

We've had several calls at Texas Star Trading Company -- -- about when the new book would be out and when the Dixie Cash sisters might come to Texas Star for a book signing.

Well, we've scheduled them for Saturday, August 8, from 1 to 3 p.m. Come by and meet the sisters, enjoy a few laughs, and pick up their new novel (and the older ones if you haven't read them).

We like having Jeffery and Pam at Texas Star for several reasons:

1. We sell a lot of their books.
2. Their books are fun to read.
3. Pam used to live in Abilene and still has a lot of friends here.
4. Readers enjoy meeting them because they enjoy meeting readers.
5. They like to shop at Texas Star and encourage others to do so.

Come see for yourself on Saturday, August 8. If you want to order the book or books in advance, call us at 325-672-9696 or e-mail us at

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Windshield History CDs

The Abilene and Fort Worth cultural tourism folks have produced a pair of CDs that tell about the history of the towns you drive by on the way from Fort Worth to Abilene or Abilene to Fort Worth.

The CDs are called "Windshield History" and they offer interesting vignettes along the 150-mile stretch of West Texas that a little more than a century ago was the Texas frontier.

Conceived and written by McMurry University history professors Don Frazier and Robert Pace, the CDs involve a number of Abilene residents who portray characters from the past bringing alive the story of their part of Texas.

The first CD, which came out three years ago, follows Highways 180 and 351 from Fort Worth to Abilene, passing through towns like Mineral Wells, Breckenridge and Albany. The new CD, released this month, follows Interstate 20 from Abilene to Fort Worth, with pieces on places like Clyde, Baird, Cisco, Ranger, Thurber and Weatherford.

Great for a summer road trip and reasonably priced at $5.99 each, the CDs are available online at or by calling Texas Star at 325-672-9696.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

10 Great Books About Texas

Selected by Glenn Dromgoole
Texas Star Trading Company

If someone were to ask me to recommend 10 Texas books they should have on their shelf, here are some I would suggest. They rank among the best Texas books ever published, and all are still in print. In fact, they are available from Texas Star Trading Company and our web site,, at 10 percent off retail price.

The Time It Never Rained, a novel by Elmer Kelton about the drought of the 1950s. Kelton, voted by his peers as the greatest Western writer ever, considers this his signature book.

The Train to Estelline, a novel by Jane Roberts Wood about a teacher in a one-room school in West Texas. First in a trilogy that includes A Place Called Sweet Shrub and Dance a Little Longer.

Lonesome Dove, generally regarded as the best novel by Larry McMurtry.

Lone Star Literature, edited by Don Graham, an impressive anthology that includes pieces by more than 60 great Texas writers.

The Original Adventures of Hank the Cowdog, the first of John Erickson's lovable series, considered a children's book for ages 9-12 but popular with adults as well.

The Longhorns by J. Frank Dobie, which explains in story and legend the historical significance of the Texas Longhorn, the cattle drive, and the cowboy. You might also check out Learning from Longhorns, which I co-authored with Lester Galbreath, longtime manager of the state Longhorn herd. We pay tribute to Dobie's book in ours.

Texas Cowboy Cooking by Tom Perini, probably the best-selling (and best) Texas cookbook ever published. At Texas Star, it is our best-selling book of any genre year after year, and we usually have autographed copies available. We also recommend my mother-in-law's great down-home cookbook, You'll Be Going Back for Seconds, our second best-selling cookbook. Oh, and you might want to try a can of Perini steak rub.

A Personal Country by A. C. Greene, maybe the best book ever about West Texas. A.C. grew up in Abilene, then made his literary reputation in Dallas. He lent his name to the A.C. Greene Award presented every year at the West Texas Book & Music Festival to a distinguished Texas author. He also wrote The 50 Best Books on Texas, several of which are on my list as well.

Goodbye to a River by John Graves, sometimes considered the best book about Texas, period. Not sure I would go that far, but certainly it's one of the best. It is a story of his canoe trip down the Brazos before dams and developments changed the river forever.

Interwoven by Sallie Reynolds Matthews, a memoir by a pioneer woman about life on the Texas frontier.

Monday, June 15, 2009

A Great Week for Book Lovers

If you love books and you're anywhere close to Abilene this weekend, you ought to stop by the huge book sale sponsored by Friends of the Abilene Public Library.

The Friends fill the exhibit hall at the Abilene Civic Center with thousands of books, and people come in from all over to pick up some great book bargains. It's one of the best book sales of its kind in the state.

The sale begins Thursday evening, June 18, 5 to 8 p.m., with a preview sale for members of Friends. Memberships are available at the door, and quite a few folks join every year just to get first pick of the books.

The sale opens to the public from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, and 1 to 4 p.m. on Sunday. Hardback and trade paperback books are $1.75, mass market paperbacks are 75 cents, and there is a section of nearly new books at a fraction of the cover price, and another section for old and rare books. On Sunday, shoppers can fill a big brown paper bag with books for just $6 per bag.

All the profits from the book sale benefit the Abilene Public Library. But perhaps the best thing is that the sale gives new life to old books. It gets them in people's homes and allows more readers an opportunity to enjoy them.

3 National Championships

In all the glory years of Texas A&M athletics (and there have been quite a few, though not many in my years, 1962-66), the Aggies have won just four national championships -- 1939 football being the one we are most likely to talk about. The women Aggies won three softball championships in the 1980s,.

Now, all of a sudden, A&M has won three national championships in just two weeks:

-- Men's golf.

-- Women's track.

-- Men's track.

Well, that might not be all that impressive if you were from Ohio State, Florida, USC, or that U from Austin. But, even if we had no particular interest in golf or track, Aggies started paying attention when we were declared national champions in something other than engineering or ag research.

So, what does this have to do with Texas books, which is the point of this blog? Maybe nothing. But when the A&M golf team made a miraculous run that resulted in an incredible national championship, I suggested to Texas A&M Press that they might want to do a quick paperback book on it, and they seemed receptive and talked to an A&M author I recommended.

Then, whoop!, a couple of weeks later A&M won the two track national championships. So I'm not sure now where the book idea stands. But if it all comes to fruition, maybe we'll have a book to hold in our hands celebrating at least the golf championship, and maybe track too, when football season rolls around.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Somewhere in America

I am in the middle of a national tour promoting my latest book, Parables from the Diamond: Meditations for Men on Baseball & Life (Bright Sky Press, $9.95). I am the co-author with my friend, Phil Christopher. We both live in Abilene, Texas.

I was in Denver earlier this evening. In the morning I'll be in Albany, NY. Yesterday I was in Atlanta and Las Vegas. Also this week, stops in Tampa, Florida; Green Bay, Wisconsin; Bakersfield, California; Philadelphia; Bluefield, West Virginia; Tulsa, Oklahoma.

The best part is: I didn't have to leave the house.No strip searches in airports. No extra charges for checked bags. No red-eye flights. No delays on the tarmac.

Our publisher, Bright Sky Press, hooked up with a promoter who arranges author interviews on sports radio talk shows. So far, he has booked me onto 18 programs. They call, we talk for 10-15 minutes, they make a nice plug for the book, and I don't have to leave the house. Don't even have to get dressed. All I have to do is talk about our book -- mine and Phil's. What could be better than that?

Parables from the Diamond is a collection of 50 very short (one page or so) meditations on baseball topics that men should be able to relate to their lives. A few examples:

Nobody's Perfect
We All Go Through Slumps
There Is No Such Thing As a Routine Play
A Broken Bat Still Has Value
Everyone Drops the Ball Now and Then
Bad Hops Happen to Good People
Who Is In Your Hall of Fame?

I recommend the book to you. (Well, isn't that a surprise?) And you don't even have to get dressed to order an autographed copy. Click on to and scroll down to Parables from the Diamond and add it to your cart. For just $8.95 instead of $9.95. Or, if you prefer, call Texas Star at 325-672-9696 and order it over the phone.

One of the questions nearly every radio interviewer has asked is: how did this book come about. Well, I've been a baseball fan since I was a kid way back in the '50s and have always wanted to write a baseball book. Phil and I got together and worked on the project for a couple of years, and I think we came up with a different kind of book on baseball and life. And what has pleased me is that all these sports radio talk show guys seem to really like the book.

Well, I'm looking forward to being in Minneapolis/St. Paul, Omaha, Rochester, and other places in the next week. And all I have to do is pick up the phone, pour a cold glass of iced tea, and talk about my book.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Welcome to Texas Reads

Welcome to the Texas Reads blog. My name is Glenn Dromgoole, and I have been writing a syndicated newspaper column called Texas Reads for seven years. Now I'm expanding it to a blog as well, as a way to supplement the information in the column and make it available to residents who may not see the printed column.

The column appears every week in the Abilene Reporter-News, Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, San Angelo Standard Times, Bryan-College Station Eagle, Beaumont Enterprise, and New Braunfels Herald Zeitung, and from time to time in the Round Rock Leader.

In the column I write about Texas books and authors, and that's what I will do in this blog. The blog will allow me to comment on some books that I might not get around to in my column, pass on information about book events around the state, and offer some recommendations, top 10 lists, and such from time to time.

Be aware, I will also take the opportunity to promote some of my own books, since I can't write about them in my column, and I will also tell you about the Texas book and gift store that my wife and I own in downtown Abilene.

It's Texas Star Trading Company, and you can look up our website at We offer discounts on nearly all the Texas books we sell. And if you can't find the book on our website, you can always call or e-mail us and see if it's available or can be ordered. Our telephone number is 325-672-9696; the store's e-mail address is You may have seen the ad that we run in Texas Monthly every month, usually promoting our line of T-shirts, mugs, tote bags, magnets and note pads with the phrase "Fixin' To -- The State Verb of Texas."

If you want to tell me about upcoming book festivals and other literary events, e-mail me at I am not providing an opportunity for direct feedback on this blog because I am strongly opposed to anonymous postings.

I am the author of 22 books, which you can find on the Texas Star website and which I will talk about every so often. My latest is a book of meditations for men on baseball and life which I co-authored with my friend Phil Christopher, an Abilene minister. It's called Parables from the Diamond, it's $9.95 ($8.95 at Texas Star), and it makes a great gift for a man or young person. The 50 pieces in the book are quite short and they all try to relate something from baseball to the kind of daily issues and challenges men face in their lives.

Before I started writing books, I was a newspaper writer and editor for more than 30 years, including 12 years as editor of the Abilene Reporter-News.

Enough for now. I hope you will tell other people who like books about this blog. And keep me posted on literary developments around the state.

Thanks, and good reading.

Glenn Dromgoole