Literature

Justice Department report on Uvalde shooting finds ‘critical failures’ in police response

After a review of thousands of videos and other evidence, the Justice Department has released its report on the Uvalde school shooting, finding “critical failures” by law enforcement before, during and after the attack.

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals strikes down much of a new Texas law that sought to restrict which books are available in school libraries.

Texas may soon be a hub for hydrogen fueling. The Standard’s Shelly Brisbin has more.

CinéWilde, which bills itself as the state’s only monthly LGBTQ film series, turns 10.

And: Remembering award-winning science fiction author Howard Waldrop.

What we know about the hotel explosion in Fort Worth

Investigators are still on the scene of a hotel explosion in Fort Worth as some ask if this is part of a larger trend spotted nationwide.

A special election to fill an open Texas House seat – and a race seen as a proxy for an intraparty fight within the Texas GOP.

A community like few others: Why an experiment outside Austin to provide housing for people experiencing homelessness is being seen as a potential model for other cities.

Plus: Could 3D-printed homes help with a housing shortage?

On Censorship

A look at the headlines might sometimes give you a sense of déjà vu — haven’t you read or seen this before? Fights over government shutdowns… a looming presidential race that may pit the same candidates against one another. Texas Standard commentator WF Strong has been thinking about this while watching another political debate.

Booksellers sue Texas over law that will restrict school library books

On Capitol Hill, a former military officer-turned-whistleblower shares out-of-this world claims about UFOs and what he says the government’s hiding.

Following sex discrimination lawsuits over Texas’ border security crackdown, the state has started placing migrant women in state prisons as well.

The Austin school district is considering nearly doubling the size of its police department to comply with a new state law that takes effect in September.

A lawsuit by booksellers and publishers targets new book restrictions for Texas school libraries.

New research on Alzheimer’s finds Texas a hot spot, with border counties hit harder than the rest of the state.

And a women’s soccer champion from Georgetown weighs in on the women’s World Cup.

The 50th anniversary of ‘The Time It Never Rained’

It’s been 50 years since the publication of Elmer Kelton’s now classic Texas novel, “The Time it Never Rained.” Kelton wrote 50 books and said this was his favorite — he called it his signature work. It won him both the Spur Award and the Western Heritage Award.

Many Texas literary critics consider “The Time it Never Rained” one of the top ten best novels ever written by a Texan about Texas — that includes our commentator WF Strong.

Astronaut Christina Koch on NASA’s upcoming Artemis 2 mission

Tensions are growing in Austin over the use of DPS officers to augment local police.

Facing resistance to a plan similar to school vouchers, an alteration getting attention at the state Capitol is focused on students with disabilities. Talia Richman of the Dallas Morning News Education Lab has more.

NASA’s plans to return to the moon: We’ll talk with Christina Koch, one of the astronauts assigned to the upcoming Artemis 2 mission.

And on this 4/20, a closer look at the complicated relationship between country music and Willie Nelson’s favorite way to kick back.

Is prosecuting librarians the next front in Texas’ book wars?

You’ve heard about library book bans in Texas, but behind the scenes there is a campaign underway to prosecute librarians for putting certain books on the shelves of school and public libraries.

After four decades, Texas politician Ben Barnes comes clean about his role, and that of former Texas Gov. John Connally, to delay the release of 52 American hostages held in Iran in order to ensure the election of Ronald Regan. Peter Baker of the New York Times joins us.

Also Texas gets a new professional sports franchise – not football or basketball, but Major League Cricket.

Fans turn out in Frisco as U.S. wins SheBelieves Cup

On the one-year anniversary of Russia’s war with Ukraine, Valerie Hudson, international affairs expert at Texas A&M, shares a Texas perspective on where the conflict stands today.

Author and commentator David Frum on concerns about moves being made by Mexico’s president that could turn back the clock on democratic change there – and the implications for Texas and beyond.

The Texas Standard’s Sarah Asch reports from the SheBelieves Cup soccer tournament in Frisco, where the U.S. Women’s National Team
took home the title.

Plus the week in politics with the Texas Tribune.

A deep dive on big plans at the Texas State Aquarium

The Texas State Aquarium in Corpus Christi will soon take on a new role: the largest coastal wildlife rescue facility in the state, and one of the largest in the country.

Should taxpayers cover the multimillion-dollar settlement in a whistleblower case against Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton? Sergio Martínez-Beltrán of The Texas Newsroom joins us with the latest.

Black and Hispanic Texans say they don’t trust the quality of their water, according to a new survey.

More book bans in Texas? How a strategy used by abortion opponents may be used to take on librarians.

And the feds are cracking down on a financial maneuver that could implicate questions of freedom of speech.

El Paso scraps plans for multimillion dollar arena

Another day, another attempt to elect a speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. Fights over who should lead lawmakers aren’t limited to D.C. There have been similar surprises in Pennsylvania and Ohio. So could it also happen in Texas? Brandon Rottinghaus of the University of Houston shares his insights. Also Bloomberg with a list of ten lawmakers to watch in 2023: one’s from Texas, and the choice just might surprise you. Plus with a controversy over LGBTQ content in libraries, city leaders in Huntsville decide to put the library in the hands of a private company. Those stories and more today on the Texas Standard:

Texas Standard: August 16, 2022

Many high marks and persistent challenges as Texas schools start off a new academic year with report cards from the state. For the first time in three years, the Texas education agency issues report cards for Texas schools. We’ll hear details. Also, what health officials are telling school teachers and administrators as a virulent strain of COVID-19 takes hold and experts try to tackle the spread of Monkeypox as well. And who’s pushing to ban books at school? A months-long investigation by the Houston Chronicle comes up with answers. And state senator Roland Gutierrez on how the state could and should better support Uvalde. Those stories and more today on the Texas Standard:

Larry McMurtry and the Lonesome Dove Quadrilogy

Of the thousands of mourners who posted their goodbyes and gratitudes to Texas writer Larry McMurtry across last month, there was one stand-out theme. It was to thank McMurtry for his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel “Lonesome Dove.” Most considered it his premiere gift to them personally, a gift that had immeasurably enriched their lives, as culturally vital as Homer’s Iliad was to the Greeks. To many, “Lonesome Dove is a book of proverbs, with advice such as:  “The best way to handle death is to ride on away from it.” Or “Yesterday’s gone on down the river and you can’t get it back.” In fact, “Lonesome Dove,” the day after McMurtry died, rocketed up into the top 100 best selling books on Amazon, and became the #1 bestseller in Westerns. 

Without a doubt, many who thanked Larry for “Lonesome Dove,” have read the other three books in the quadrilogy. Yet, I also know, from long experience, that some fans of the book and film, are unaware that there are three other books. There’s a great deal more trail to ride with Augustus McCrae and Woodrow Call. 

The first is “Dead Man’s Walk.” Call and Gus are young men, in their early twenties. I’ve always thought of Gus and Call as part of the “buddy cops” genre. Here, we meet them for the first time as Texas Rangers on guard duty, west of the Pecos in pursuit of Comanches. McMurtry writes: “Gus took guard duty a good deal more lightly than his companion, Woodrow Call.” Gus annoys Call when he brings out a jug of mescal and takes a swig in front of him. Call remarks,  “If the major caught you drinking on guard he’d shoot you.” There you see already the contrast that will define their friendship throughout the next two books. Gus the free-spirited, fun-loving sociable rule-breaker and Call the disciplined loner. 

Comanche Moon is the second book in the series. Gus and Woodrow are both now Ranger captains, but that comes later in the book. It opens as Gus and Woodrow are part of a troop of 13 Rangers trying to run down Comanche Chief Kicking Wolf. They are pursuing him along the edge of the Palo Duro Canyon. Out on the Llano Estacado, Gus feels disoriented. McMurtry steps in to provide one of his iconic descriptions of the Texas landscape: “There was not a feature to stop the eye on the long plain: no tree, ridge, rise, hill, dip, animal or bird. Augustus could see nothing at all, and he was well known to have the best vision in the troop. The plain was so wide it seemed you could see to the rim of forever, and yet, in all that distance, there was nothing.” 

“Lonesome Dove” comes next in the story’s chronology. I won’t say much here as this book is the best known of the four. I will say only that it was the first “Game of Thrones” in the sense that McMurtry killed off a great number of characters we came to love. As McMurtry himself wrote in “Lonesome Dove,”  “Death and worse happened on the plains.” 

The final book is “Streets of Laredo.” It was the original name for “Lonesome Dove” when it was just a screenplay. In this last book, Captain Call is hired to pursue a violent, psychopathic killer named Joey Garza who is a thinly-disguised Billy the Kid. In this book, we get a better look at Call and what he’s made of. For instance, here are his thoughts about loyalty: “It seemed to him the highest principle was loyalty. He preferred it to honor. He was never quite sure what men meant when they spoke of their honor, though it had been a popular word during the War. He was sure though, about what he meant when he spoke of loyalty. A man didn’t desert his comrades, his troop, his leader. If he did, he was in Call’s book, useless.”  

I envy those who have not read the quadrilogy. I would love to be able to have the singular joy of reading them all again for the first time. But a second or third read is mighty enjoyable, too.

101 Essential Texas Books

By W. F. Strong

If I have an addiction, it’s definitely books. I read about two books a week and order two more I’m unlikely to ever get to. But I like them on the shelf as backup the way survivalists hoard food supplies. Admittedly, I’m often short of shelves. When you have more books than shelves, you know you’re overdoing it.

I’m the book equivalent of the cat lady. I take in more books than I should. I recently took a pickup load of recyclable metals to a solid waste depot. As I paid the man I noticed he had 20 books on a little shelf outside his office. I said, “Well, you have plenty to read there when things are slow.” He said, “No, I’m not much of a reader but I can’t stand seeing good books go to the dump so I save ’em. These are rescue books for anyone who wants them.” I rescued 5 of the rescue books. To show the extent of my addiction, I also have a massive stash in the cloud, just in case I need a book when traveling or when stuck at the dentist’s office.

Doing some math I figured that if I live to my allotted average age, I figure I have only 2,000 books left to read in my life. And probably only 1500 because I’ll re-read 500 of my favorites, leaving 1500 new books over the next 20 years – out of billions in the world. A sad fraction. So, I must choose well. To borrow from the old dicho, “Life is too short to read bad books.”

So how does one choose well? First, you have recommendations from friends whose taste you trust. As I am into Texana books, I rely also on sites like Texas Booklover on Facebook for suggestions worth my time. But my favorite of all are books about books. Larry McMurtry has an exquisite book called simply Books. It’s truly spellbinding. A similar sort of work that I want to recommend to you today is 101 Essential Texas Books by Glenn Dromgoole and Carlton Stowers, both authors and experts on Texas literature.

Each book in the 101 is tightly summarized. You’ll find your favorites here for sure: All the Pretty Horses, The Time it Never Rained, Lone Star by Fehrenbach, Michener’s Texas, Friday Night Lights, and Lonesome Dove. But you will also find numerous gems you’ve perhaps never come across.

I like that the collection is in genres. You have first-rate works in history, literature – in this case books about books and writing – fiction, people, place, law and order, sports, food and drink, and books for young readers.

Here’s a few I think are lesser known standouts:

Texas Post Office Murals by Philip Parisi is a full color book of 115 photographs of depression era murals painted in Texas Post Offices across the state. They were painted by famous artists like Tom Lea, Xavier Gonzalez, and Jerry Bywaters and were meant to lift the spirits of people going through hard times.

A History of Texas Music by Gary Hartman. Not limited to Country-Western, Hartman covers “German, Czech, Tejano, Cajun, rock and roll, and rhythm and blues.”

100,000 Hearts: A Surgeon’s Memoir by Denton Cooley. It’s an autobiography by one of the world’s best heart surgeons of all time. And I’m not just saying that because one of those 100,000 hearts still beating is mine.

Under the category of “place” you have Goodbye to a River by John Graves, and A.C. Greene’s A Personal Country, as one would expect. The lesser known standout for me is Great Lonely Places of the Texas Plains by the Texas Poet Walt McDonald and Texas’ genius photographer Wyman Meinzer. It is a stunning book wherein poems illuminate photographs and photographs animate poems.

Rainwater by Sandra Brown. Sandra Brown is best known for her bestsellers in romance and suspense so this work is a departure for her. Set in a small Texas town during the depression, it has been compared to The Grapes of Wrath because it is the story of a tough woman barely surviving while running a boarding house in the dust bowl.

That’s a quick preview. Check out the 101 Essential Texas Books and you’ll be sure to find many you’ll cherish having on your shelves, or if you’re like me, stacked on your desk or on top of the dining room table, piano, refrigerator, night table, etc.

Texas Standard: June 20, 2018

How much longer? If there’s growing bipartisan opposition to the policy of separating families at the border, why isn’t congress stepping in? Today on the Standard, Democratic Congressman Vicente Gonzalez of McCallen joins us to talk about gridlock in Washington and heartbreak on the border. Also, fears of an all out trade war with China rising. How it might play out in our own backyard. And how do you spell dynasty? T-E-X-A-S. A Lone Star sweep of the national spelling championships gets people wondering what’s in the water? We’ll find out. And 50 years after the landmark documentary Hunger in America turned a spotlight on San Antonio, we’ll explore its lasting impact. All of that and so much more today on the Texas Standard:

V&B – The Beat Generation

In this special edition of Views & Brews writer, comedian, and host of The KUT Podcast The Write Up, Owen Egerton leads a discussion about The Beats alongside Steve Wilson, Meg Griffitts, and Francois Pointeau.

Who were The Beats? How did help construct a specific idea of America?  And What is the lasting impact of the beat generation today?

Scott Blackwood

Author Scott Blackwood talks about his new novel “See How Small,” with host Owen Egerton.