A guide to new and upcoming Texas-related books

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The Texas literary scene is still raining books. The accompanying photo shows a few of the Texas-related tomes that are just out or on their way to bookstores soon. The list isn’t comprehensive but is based on copies I’ve received in the last few weeks. We’ll try to keep wrapping up new titles each month.

From left, the books are:

“The Eternal Party: Understanding My Dad, Larry Hagman, the TV Star America Loved to Hate,” by Kristina Hagman with Elizabeth Kaye. (Thomas Dunne Books, $26.99.) Hagman’s daughter writes about her family, including her grandmother, the Broadway star Mary “Peter Pan” Martin, and how she came to better understand her father in his final days in Dallas in late 2012. Hagman, of course, played the notorious J.R. Hagman on the classic TV show “Dallas.” But he was also known for his pot-smoking, LSD-taking and happy-go-lucky attitude – something that vanished as he begged for forgiveness from his daughter on his deathbed at a Dallas hospital. It also reveals an exchange of letters between Larry Hagman and his mother, and a terrible fight they had when Martin was living in Brazil in semi-retirement. The handwritten correspondence brought comfort to Hagman’s daughter, and it sheds a new light on a man who wasn’t hateful at all. The book’s release date is June 7.

“Soraya,” by Anis Shivani. (Black Widows Press, $15.95). This collection of sonnets from Shivani, a Houston author and critic, is described as surrealist poetry. He’s a graduate of Harvard College, and his previous books include “Anatolia and Other Stories” (2009) and “The Fifth Lash and Other Stories” (2012), both of which were longlisted for the Frank O’Connor international short story award. “Soraya” is essentially a series of 100 sonnets about love. The book was published in April.

“Hurt: The Inspiring, Untold Story of Trauma Care,” by Catherine Musemeche. (ForeEdge, $27.95). Musemeche, a pediatric surgeon and former professor of surgery at the University of Texas Medical School, looks at the advances in trauma care, based on her experiences in centers in Chicago and Houston. The publisher describes the book as “a riveting account of the multifaceted history of injury and the story of how trauma care evolved to become the sophisticated, effective system that it is today.” The book will be published in early September.

“News of the World,” by Paulette Jiles. (William Morrow, $22.99). The author, who lives on a ranch near San Antonio, will be touring extensively in Texas when this novel comes out in early October. It takes place just after the Civil War and deals with a former captain, Jefferson Kyle Kidd, who performs readings of newspapers in North Texas to a paying audience that’s hungry for news of the world. But things begin to change when he accepts a new job: Deliver a young orphan in Wichita Falls to relatives in San Antonio – a dangerous trip through unsettled territory.

“T Bone Burnett: A Life in Pursuit,” by Lloyd Sachs. (University of Texas Press, $26.95). Although born in Missouri, Burnett grew up in Fort Worth, so Texas still claims him, despite his current residence in Nashville. So it’s appropriate that the University of Texas Press is publishing the first critical appreciation of Burnett’s contributions to American music. Sachs tracks Burnett’s early days with Bob Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue; his collaboration with playwright Sam Shepard; his work with the Coen Brothers; his studio work with such artists as Robert Plant, Alison Krauss, Los Lobos and Elvis Costello; and his musical compositions for such TV shows as “Nashville” and “True Detective.” This book should resonate with Austin readers and musicians, and it’s due in October.

“How to Be a Texan,” by Andrea Valdez. (University of Texas Press, $21.95). Valdez is a native Houstonian who has worked for Texas Monthly since 2006, where she edits texasmonthly.com. She’s written a sly, lighthearted look at things you should do if you want to act and talk like a Texan. She offers tips on how to take a bluebonnet photo, how to learn the two-step and must-visit spots around the state. The book was published in May.

“Prepare to Defend Yourself… How to Age Gracefully & Escape With Your Dignity,” by Matthew Minson. (Texas A&M University Press, $28.) Minson, an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Texas A&M School of Public Health, tells us how to have fun after 50, even though our bodies are undergoing dramatic changes. A&M says the book “takes on health, finances, sex, diet, exercise, death, the law and what you can do to protect what matters most as you age.” The book was published in May.

“Keeping Austin Weird,” by Red Wassenich, with illustrations by Penny Van Horn. (Schiffer Publishing, $24.99). Yep, Austin has a lot of weird stuff going on, and Wassenich offers his guide to such matters in this book that’s heavy on photos and illustrations. Chapters are devoted to weird places, weird people, weird art and other weird topics. In case you’re wondering, the weird people include Carl Hickerson, the perennial flower-seller and City Council candidate; Ginny Agnew and Nancy Toelle, who have sat on the shore of Lady Bird Lake off and on since 2010, holding a sign that offers free advice; Ben Sargent, the former American-Statesman cartoonist who operates a letterpress in a building next to his home; and American-Statesman columnist John Kelso, who specializes in weirdness, too. The book was published in April.

“The Strange Career of William Ellis: The Texas Slave Who Became a Mexican Millionaire,” by Karl Jacoby. (W.W. Norton & Company, $27.95). Jacoby, a professor of history at Columbia University, tracks the life of William Ellis, who was born a slave on a Texas cotton plantation but eventually assumed a new identity as Mexican Guillermo Eliseo, who went on to own a luxury apartment building overlooking New York City’s Central Park. It’s a fascinating tell of who one man navigates racial codes and convinced many that he was Hispanic. The book will be available June 14.

“Moscow Nights: The Van Cliburn Story – How One Man and His Piano Transformed the Cold War,” by Nigel Cliff. (Harper, $28.99). Most people in Texas are familiar with the story of Van Cliburn and his legendary trip to Moscow to compete in the first International Tchaikovsky Competition in 1958. The Soviets didn’t want Cliburn to win the competition, of course, but the Texan captivated the nation, going on to become an ambassador of hope between the two superpowers. Cliff is a London-based writer, and his book will be available in September.

“Before We Visit the Goddess,” by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. (Simon & Schuster, $25). I’m currently working on a review of this novel by Houston author Divakaruni. She’s the McDavid professor of creative writing at the University of Houston, and she’s one of my favorite recent discoveries. “Before We Visit the Goddess” is full of different voices, going back and forth in time, with beautifully written chapters that could stand on their own as short stories but add layer upon layer of complication, wonder, humanity and empathy when joined together. The novel tracks the lives of three generations of Indian women, the oldest of whom, Sabitri, establishes a famous bakery back in India. Then there’s her daughter, the rebellious Bela, who runs away from home to marry a young man who’s living in California. And then there’s Bela’s daughter, Tara, a troubled soul who blames her mother for her parents’ divorce. Look for an expanded review in the American-Statesman this month.

“The Terror Years: From al-Qaeda to the Islamic State,” by Lawrence Wright. (Alfred A. Knopf, $28.95). I’ve mentioned this book, which is slated for August publication, before. I’m about halfway through it, and it’s easily one of the most enlightening analyses of the current rise of terrorism in the Middle East. Wright, the Austin-based Pulitzer winner, originally wrote much of this book as articles in The New Yorker, but he updates those pieces with new developments and offers a trenchant look at one of the biggest threats of our age. Look for a review of the book in August in the American-Statesman.

“Welcome to the Poisoned Chalice: The Destruction of Greece and the Future of Europe,” by James K. Galbraith. I’ve read most of this book, and it’s impressive in its understanding and revelations about the Greek fiscal crisis – and the problems with European unity. Galbraith holds the Lloyd M. Bentsen Chair in Government/Business Relations at the University of Texas, and he has been a key adviser to former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis. Galbraith says the Greek situation is “economic policy as moral abomination.” The book will be available this month.

“Indeh: The Story of the Apache Wars,” by Ethan Hawke and Greg Ruth. (Grand Central Publishing, $25). Austin native and noted actor Hawke teams up with illustrator Ruth to tell the story of Geronimo in this graphic novel. It’s set in 1872, amid the devastation of the Apache nation, and the young Geronimo, who’s known as Goyahkla. The book will be published June 7.

“The Boys of Summer,” by Richard Cox. (Night Shade Books, $15.99). This novel from Oklahoma writer Cox is set in 1979, when a tornado devastates Wichita Falls and leaves scores dead. Among the survivors is 9-year-old Todd Willis. But for four years, he’s in a coma, and when he wakes, things are drastically changed. The novel then leaps 25 years into the future, when Willis is an adult and reflects on that life-changer summer. The book will be available in September.

“A Cloud of Unusual Size and Shape,” by Matt Donovan. (Trinity University Press, $17.95). This book of essays from the co-chair of the creative writing and literature department at Santa Fe University of Art and Design, was published by San Antonio’s Trinity University Press. It’s not Texas-focused, however. Instead, much of the book reflects on Donovan’s thoughts about the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D., which buried Pompeii under 20 feet of ash. He then turns to other clouds – those that rose above Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Trinity says that “the redemptive power of beauty permeates this spectacular work, reminding us that darkness and light make an inextricable pattern in our lives. The book was published in April.

“Terminated for Reasons of Taste,” by Chuck Eddy. (Duke University Press, $26.95). Eddy, an Austin-based music journalist, looks at the losers of rock ‘n’ roll, in part because he has issues with history being written by the winners. He includes much writing about winners, such as the Beastie Boys, Taylor Swift and Bruce Springsteen, but he also acknowledges his “appreciation of the lost, ignored and maligned,” and in doing so, he offers a multidimensional portrait of pop music. The book is scheduled to be published in September.

“The Red River Bridge War: A Texas-Oklahoma Border Battle,” by Rusty Williams. (Texas A&M University Press, $29.95.) Williams, a longtime Texas journalist, delves into the two-week war between Texas and Oklahoma in the summer of 1931, when the states rallied to arms over an old toll bridge across the Red River. As Williams describes it, the incident featured “National Guardsmen with field artillery, Texas Rangers with itchy trigger fingers, angry mobs, Model T blockade runners, and even a Native American peace delegation.” The book was published in May.

“The Turbulent Trail,” by Mike Thompson. (Five Star, $25.95). This novel from San Angelo writer Thompson focuses on a guy named Charlie Deegan, who was once an Army sharpshooter but has landed in Yuma Territorial Prison. He eventually escapes and becomes a cowboy in this historical western. The book was published in May.

“Birds in Trouble,”
by Lynn E. Barber. (Texas A&M University Press, $29.95.) This isn’t technically a Texas book, but since a state university published it – and since the issues raised span the nation – it seems appropriate to include. Barber, Alaska’s noted birder, decided to write this book after the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, in an attempt to explain the plight of bird species that are declining each year. She focuses on habitats, and how changes to those natural areas have a huge impact on the survival of birds. The book includes lots of Barber illustrations of various species. “Birds in Trouble” was published in April.

“Morgue: A Life in Death,” by Vincent Di Maio and Ron Franscell. (St. Martin’s Press, $26.99). Di Maio is the former chairman of the Texas Forensic Science Commission, and Franscell is a longtime reporter. And the two team up for this behind-the-scenes look at how evidence and pathology play a role on the witness stand. The book was published in May.


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