Texas literary scene is hopping. Here’s to happy reading.

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The Texas literary scene is still hopping, as previously reported. And it seems like a dozen or so Texas-related books arrive each month.

Here’s what’s coming up.

On Sunday, April 3, former American-Statesman staff Michael MacCambridge will be reviewing the new book from another former Statesman staff, Kevin Robbins. It’s a biography of Austin golf legend Harvey Penick, with the subtitle: “The Man Who Wrote the Book on Golf.” Robbins will be at BookPeople on April 13.

Next Sunday, April 10, I’ll be reviewing the terrific, fast-paced look at Austin in the 1880s by Skip Hollandsworth, executive editor of Texas Monthly. It focuses on a series of killings of black servant women and the panic it caused. And with his customary wit, Hollandsworth points out that the city really became alarmed when the same serial killer attacked and mutilated two white women. He suggests that the famous Austin moontowers might have been installed to help people feel safer on the streets. And he further notes that many newspapers around the country, at least at one point, thought that the Austin killer had moved on to London, where he became Jack the Ripper. It’s really quite a tale, and it’s the Statesman Selects title, in conjunction with BookPeople, for April.

Also coming in April: A review of Austin author Dominic Smith’s “The Last painting of Sara de Vos.” It’s historical fiction, dealing with the first woman to be admitted as a master painter to Amsterdam’s Guild of St. Luke in 1631. The book goes back and forth in time, from the 1600s to the 1950s and 2000. And it deals with an art historian who, in her earlier days, made a forgery of a de Vos painting, only to have it haunt her later in life when she’s a bigwig at an art museum. Smith will be the subject our series called Literary Austin.

There’s plenty more coming this spring and summer. One of the biggest surprises to me was the recent arrival of Lawrence Wright’s “The Terror Years.” It’s due in bookstores in August and its subtitle, “From al-Qaeda to the Islamic State,” indicates it’s a sequel of sorts to Wright’s Pulitzer-winning “The Looming Tower.” It consists of 10 pieces published in The New Yorker about the path to today’s ISIS terrorists.

Meanwhile, Austin’s Noah Hawley, who’s best known for TV work on “My Generation,” “The Unusuals,” “Bones” and “Fargo,” has a new novel titled “Before the Fall.” It’s due in late May and focuses on a group of people who board an ill-fated private plane from Martha’s Vineyard to New York. There are only two survivors – a down-on-his-luck painter named Scott Burroughs and a 4-year-old boy who’s the son of a media mogul. The book goes back in forth in time, with the backstories of the passengers, and more than a suggestion of possible foul play. Sounds great. But I haven’t started it yet, because I’m trying to finish “The Adventurist,” by Houston’s J. Bradford Hipps.

I have to say that I’m really enjoying the Hipps novel, in part because of the satirical, riotously funny tone about the modern corporate world. The main character is Henry Hurt, a software engineer in the South who tries to navigate a financially perilous situation at work while nursing a bit of lovesickness on the side. And on top of that, he’s haunted by the death of his mother, the possibility that his father is in the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s, and the persistent questioning of his career choice by a do-good, liberal sister who works for a nonprofit. I haven’t quite made up my mind what I think about poor Henry. But he makes me laugh, so I guess I’m simultaneously appalled and amused. It’s set for release in April.

With all of this coming up, I’m not sure how quickly I’ll get to the following titles, but I’ll try. They include:

“Welcome to the Poisoned Chalice: The Destruction of Greece and the Future of Europe,” by James K. Galbraith, who holds the Lloyd Bentsen Chair in Government/Business Relations at the University of Texas. He argues that the Greek financial situation is a potential international disaster. Galbraith sees the policies used toward Greece as a “moral abomination.” It’s from Yale University Press and is due in June.

“Waylon: Tales of My Outlaw Dad,” by Terry Jennings and David Thomas. Terry Jennings, Waylon’s son, was born when his dad was only 19, and he grew up in a wild period of touring, drugs and chasing women, along with multiple divorces and other troubles. It’s being billed as an honest warts-and-all biography. Terry is the founder of Korban Music Group and lives near Waco. He teamed up with Thomas, whose books including “Wrestling for My Life” and “Foxcatcher,” the inspiration for the Oscar-nominated film. He lives near Fort Worth. It’s due in April from Hachette.

“Terminated for Reasons of Taste,” by Chuck Eddy. Austin-based journalist Eddy shares his views on rock ‘n’ roll and how he thinks that most histories focus on winners rather than losers. He thinks the losers help make rock interesting. It’s due in September from Duke University Press.

“Before We Visit the Goddess,” by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. The author, who was born in India, is the McDavid professor of creative writing at the University of Houston. And her new novel focuses on the daughter of a poor sweet-maker in Bengal, India, who longs for an education. The girl eventually gets a benefactor, but the relationship sours. And years later, her estranged daughter flees India for America, only to have her dreams upended as well. The book jackets says that the novel “captures the gorgeous complexity of these multi-generational and transcontinental bonds, sweeping across the twentieth century from the countryside of Bengal … to the streets of Houston.” It’s due in April from Simon & Schuster.

“Another Year Finds Me in Texas: The Civil War Diary of Lucy Piers Stevens,” by Vicki Adams Tongate. It deals with a young Ohio woman who is visiting Bellville, Texas, when the Civil War breaks out and makes her return home impossible. The diary is one of the few from women during Civil War-era Texas and details her perspective on just about everything, from the weather to chores to slaves. Tongate explores the diary and provides commentary along the way. It’s from the University of Texas Press and is already in bookstores.

“Kent Finlay, Dreamer: The Musical Legacy Behind Cheatham Street Warehouse,” by Brian T. Atkinson and Jenni Finlay. Texas journalist Atkinson teams up with Finlay’s daughter, Jenni, to talk about the late Kent Finlay’s efforts to help aspiring artists while working at Cheatham Street Warehouse. Those he helped while working at the legendary San Marcos honky-tonk include George Strait, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Randy Rogers, James McMurtry and Eric Johnson. It’s already in bookstores and is from the Texas A&M University Press.

“Indeh: The Story of the Apache Wars,” by Ethan Hawke and Greg Ruth. Austin native Hawke teams up with illustrator Ruth to bring us a graphic novel about the Apache nation in 1872. It’s due from Grand Central Publishing in June.

Also of note: One of Austin’s favorite writers, Sarah Bird, has a small UT Press book titled “A Love Letter to Texas Women.” It’ll make a great Mother’s Day gift, if you’re wondering. We’ll have more on this title soon.

There are many more Texas-related books coming up, of course. I’ve just mentioned a few. And I’ll try to keep you informed about the latest. But this summer is going to be a good season for reading.

New Fiction Confab set for April 23

Virginia Reeves
Virginia Reeves
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Karan Mahajan

The seventh annual New Fiction Confab will be held on Saturday, April 23 at the John Henry Faul Central Library at 800 Guadalupe St.

This year’s event will feature Kirk Lynn (“Rules for Werewolves”), Karan Mahajan (“The Association of Small Bombs”), Karen Olsson (“All the Houses”), Virginia Reeves (“Work Like Any Other”), Alexander Chee (“The Queen of the Night”), Kaitlyn Greenidge (“We Love You, Charlie Freeman”), Samantha Hunt (“Mr. Splitfoot”) and Sunil Yapa (“The Heart Is a Muscle the Size of a Fist”).

As you can probably tell, this will be quite a literary conclave, featuring some of Austin’s finest authors, plus such visiting authors as Chee, Greenidge, Hunt and Yapa.

The event is one of the biggest literary programs of the Austin Public Library Friends Foundation. All events are free and open to the public. For details on the various sessions, go here.

Mayor’s Book Club selects ‘A Friend of Mr. Lincoln’

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Stephen Harrigan’s “A Friend of Mr. Lincoln” is the 2016 Mayor’s Book Club title.

The book club is an annual citywide reading campaign that aims to develop a community experience through reading and discussion.

Harrigan’s novel explores the early days of Abraham Lincoln, before his eventual marriage to Mary Todd, and his exploits riding the circuit in Illinois, before his political ascendancy.

The campaign is in conjunction of Mayor Steve Adler’s office and the Austin Public Library Friends Foundation.

Youth Fiction Writing Contest entries being accepted

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Entries are being accepted for the 2016 Youth Fiction Writing Contest until July 1, and this year’s theme is “Note to Self.”

The contest is hosted by the Texas Book Festival and the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement at the University of Texas. The contest is open to junior and high school students in Texas. They can submit a piece of original fiction, no more than 2,000 words in length.

Submissions are judged by authors, educators and others.
There are three divisions for the contest: grades 7-8, grades 9-10 and grades 11-12.

First-place winners get $250; second place, $100; third place, $50. Their work will be published on the Texas Book Festival website, and they’ll get a plaque. Finalists and semi-finalists in grades 9 through 12 also get an invitation to a writing workshop at the Austin Bat Cave.
To enter your submission, click here.

Poet Jane Miller reading set for April 7

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Poet Jane Miller will read from her work at 7:30 p.m. April 7, with the Michener Center for Writers at the University of Texas serving as host.

Miller, a longtime member of the University of Arizona poetry faculty, is a visiting professor at UT, and her books include “Thunderbirds,” “The Greater Leisures”; and “Memory at These Speeds.” She has received support from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation.

The event will be held at the Avaya Auditorium, POB 2.302, on the UT campus at the southeast corner of Speedway and 24th streets. It is free and open to the public. Parking is available in the UT San Jacinto Garage.

Sarah Bird to get Lon Tinkle Award; other finalists named

Author Sarah Bird
Author Sarah Bird

Austin novelist Sarah Bird will receive the Lon Tinkle Award at the annual Texas Institute of Letters’ award reception and banquet on April 15 and 16, the literary group announced Thursday.

The Tinkle award is presented to a distinguished writer with a career in letters associated with Texas, and previous winners include Larry McMurty, John Graves, Rolando Hinojosa and Lawrence Wright.

The group also announced the finalists for its other awards. They are as follows:

Jesse H. Jones Award for Best Work of Fiction ($6,000): Karen Olsson, “All the Houses” (Farrar, Straus and Giroux); Antonio Ruiz-Camacho, “Barefoot Dogs” (Scribner); Elizabeth Harris, “Mayhem: Three Lives of a Woman” (Gival Press)

Steven Turner Award for Best Work of First Fiction ($1,000): Mary Helen Specht, “Migratory Animals” (Harper Perennial); Melissa De Carlo, “The Art of Crash Landing” (Harper Paperbacks); Chaitali Sen, “The Pathless Sky” (Europa Editions)

Carr P. Collins Award for Best Book of Nonfiction ($5,000): Michael Mewshaw, “Sympathy for the Devil: Four Decades of Friendship with Gore Vidal (Farrar, Straus and Giroux); Randy Fritz, “Hail of Fire” (Trinity University Press); Jan Jarboe Russell, “The Train to Crystal City” (Scribner)

Ramirez Family Award for Most Significant Scholarly Book ($2,500): Andrew Torget, III, “Seeds of Empire” (The University of North Carolina Press); Light Townsend Cummins, “Allie Victoria Tennant and the Visual Arts in Dallas (Texas A&M University Press); Abigail L. Swingen, “Competing Visions of Empire” (Yale University Press)

Helen C. Smith Memorial Award for Best Book of Poetry ($1,200): Bruce Bond, “The Other Sky” (Etruscan Press); Laurie Ann Guerrero, “A Crown for Gumecindo” (Aztlan Libre Press); Scott Wiggerman, “Leaf and Beak” (Purple Flag)

Bob Bush Memorial Award for First Book of Poetry ($1,000): Noel Crook, “Salt Moon” (Southern Illinois University Press); Jonathan Fink, “The Crossing” (Dzanc Books); J. Scott Brownlee, “Requiem for Used Ignition Cap” (The Orison Poetry Prize)

Edwin “Bud” Shrake Award for Short Nonfiction ($1,000): Melissa del Bosque, “Death on Sevenmile Road,” in Texas Observer (March 2015); W.K. Stratton, “My Brother’s Secret,” in Texas Monthly (February 2015); Chris Ellery, “A Boy of Bethany,” in Rosebud 60 (Fall/Winter 2015)

Kay Cattarulla Award for Best Short Story ($1,000): Rick Bass, “The Blue Tree,” in Whitefish Review; Brian Van Reet, “The Chaff,” in Iowa Review; Miles Wilson, “Tough,” in Georgia Review

H-E-B/Jean Flynn Award for Best Children’s Book ($500): Liz Garton Scanlon, “The Great Good Summer” (Beach Lane Books); Anne Bustard, “Anywhere But Paradise” (EgmontUSA); Don Tate, “The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton: Poet” (Peachtree Publishers)

H-E-B Best Young Adults Book ($500): David Bowles, “The Smoking Mirror” (IFWG Publishing), Brian Yansky, “Utopia, Iowa” (Candlewick); Rene S. Perez II, “Seeing Off the Johns” (Cinco Puntos Press)

Denton Record-Chronicle Award for Best Children’s Picture Book ($500): Pat Mora, “The Remembering Day / El dia de los muertos” (Arte Publico Press); Kathi Appelt, “Counting Crows” (Atheneum Books for Young Readers); Chris Barton, “The Nutcracker Comes to America” (Millbrook Press)

Fred Whitehead Award for Best Design of a Trade Book ($750): Bryce Milligan, “Rosengren’s Books” by Mary Carolyn Hollers George (Wings Press); Andrea Caillouet, “The Luck Archive: Exploring Belief, Superstition, and Tradition” by Mark Menjivar (Trinity University Press); Mary Ann Jacob, “Feeding Wild Birds in America” by Paul J. Baicich, Margaret A. Barker, and Carrol L. Henderson (Texas A&M University Press)

Soeurette Diehl Fraser Award for Best Translation of a Book ($1,000): Marian Schwartz, Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (Yale University Press); Travis Sorenson, “The Milli Vanilli Condition: Essays on Culture in the New Millennium” by Eduardo Espina (Arte Publico Press); Nicolas Kanellos, “When Mexico Recaptures Texas: Essays” by Carmen Boullosa (Arte Publico Press).

The institute’s event will take place at the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center and at the Bullock Texas State History Museum. The Saturday banquet will be preceded by the induction of and readings by new members.

Membership is by invitation only, based on a substantial contribution to Texas literature and culture. However, the Friday night reception, featuring music and readings by some of Texas’ best poets, and the Saturday night banquet are open to the public. The cost is $50, which includes admission to both events.

Texas Book Fest raising money for Reading Rock Stars

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If you’re a fan of the Texas Book Festival, here’s a chance to help their programs. Beginning today, the festival’s Amplify Austin campaign has set a goal of raising $15,000 for Reading Rock Stars, a literacy program that brings children’s authors into Title 1 schools to meet students and hand out signed copies of their book.
For many students, the festival says, this is the first book they will on. The festival has given away more than 70,000 books to low-income young readers in Texas through the program.
Every dollar the festival gets will be matched by the Herbert Simon Family Foundation.
To donate, go here.

Rounding up the literary awards

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Ta-Nehisi Coates is national correspondent for The Atlantic. He is also the author of The Beautiful Struggle.</

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The major literary awards are coming up, and we decided to put together a guide to who’s likely to be nominated, where things stand and what’s ahead. Such lists also provide a decent reading guide for anyone trying to figure out what to read next.

First of all, the National Book Awards have already been announced, and they’re a fairly good indicator of what lies ahead.

For fiction, Adam Johnson was named the winner for “Fortune Smiles.” Ta-Nahisi Coates won the nonfiction award for “Between the World and Me,” while Robin Coste Lewis won the poetry prize for “Voyage of the Sable Venus.” In young people’s literature, the winner was Neal Shusterman for “Challenger Deep.”

The finalists for the National Book Critics Circle Award, which is determined by book review editors and critics, were announced Jan. 18. These categories are slightly different from the National Book Awards, but here are the finalists, with winners to be announced March 17.

Nonfiction: Mary Beard, “SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome”; Ari Berman, “Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America”; Jill Leovy, “Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America”; Sam Quinones, “Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic”; and Brian Seibert, “What the Eye Hears: A History of Tap Dancing.”

Autobiography: Elizabeth Alexander, “The Light of the World”; Vivian Gornick, “The Odd Woman and the City”; George Hodgman, “Bettyville”; Margo Jefferson, “Negroland”; Helen Macdonald, “H Is for Hawk.”

Biography: Terry Alford, “Fortune’s Fool: The Life of John Wilkes Booth”; Charlotte Gordon, “Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecarft and Her Daughter Mary Shelley”; T.J. Stiles, “Custer’s Trials: A Life on the Frontier of a New America”; Rosemary Sullivan, “Stalin’s Daughter: The Extraordinary and Tumultuous Life of Svetlana Alliluyeva”; Karin Wieland and Shelly Frisch, “Dietrich and Riefenstahl: Hollywood, Berlin, and a Century in Two Lives.”

Criticism: Ta-Nahisi Coates, “Between the World and Me”; Leo Damrosch, “Eternity’s Sunrise: The Imaginative World of William Blake”; Maggie Nelson, “The Argonauts”; Colm Toibin, “On Elizabeth Bishop”; James Wood, “The Nearest Thing to Life.”

Poetry: Ross Gay, “Catalogue of Unabashed Gratitude”; Terrance Hayes, “How to Be Drawn”; Ada Limon, “Bright Dead Things”; Sinead Morrissey, “Parallax: And Selectged Poems”; Frank Stanford, “What About This” Collected Poems of Frank Stanford.”

The shortlist for the PEN Literary Awards was announced in early February, and winners will be named March 1 for biography, literary sports writing, poetry in translation and PEN translation prize. On April 11, winners will be announced for debut fiction, essay, Open Book and literary science writing.

Here are the finalists:

Fiction: “In the Country: Stories,” Mia Alvar; “The Turner House,” Angela Flournoy; “Mr. And Mrs. Doctor,” Julie Iromuanya; “The Sympathizer,” Viet Thanh Nguyen; “Mayumi and the Sea of Happiness,” by Jennifer Tseng.

Essay: “After the Tall Timber: Collected Nonfiction,” Renata Adler; “Between the World and Me,” Ta-Nehisi Coates; “The Quarry,” Susan Howe; “The Givenness of Things: Essays,” Marilynne Robinson; “Sidewalking: Coming to Terms with Los Angeles,” David L. Ulin.

Literary science writing: “Rain: A Natural and Cultural History,” Cynthia Barnett; “The End of Plenty: The Race to Feed a Crowded World,” Joel K. Bourne Jr.; “The Boy Who Played With Fusion: Extreme Science, Extreme Parenting, and How to Make a Star,” Tom Clynes; “Thunder & Lightning: Weather Past, Present, Future,” Lauren Redniss; “Island on Fire: The Extraordinary Story of a Forgotten Volcano That Changed the World,” Alexandra Witze and Jeff Kanipe.

Literary sports writing: “Not a Game: The Incredible Rise and Unthinkable Fall of Allen Iverson,” Kent Babb; “The Domino Diaries: My Decade Boxing with Olympic Champions and Chasing Hemingway’s Ghost in the Last Days of Castro’s Cuba,” Brin-Jonathan Butler; “The Secret Game: A Wartime Story of Courage, Change, and Basketball’s Lost Triumph,” Scott Ellsworth; “Molina: The Story of the Father Who Raised an Unlikely Baseball Dynasty,” Bengie Molina with Joan Ryan; “The Grind: Inside Baseball’s Endless Season,” Barry Svrulga.

Open Book Award: “Chord,” Rick Barot; “Bastards of the Reagan Era,” Reginald Dwayne Betts; “Forest Primeval: Poems,” Vievee Francis; “Where the Dead Pause, and the Japanese Say Goodbye: A Journey,” Marie Mutsuki Mockett; “Trace: Memory, History, Race, and the American Landscape,” Lauret Savoy.

Biography: “The Bronte Cabinet: Three Lives in Nine Objects,” Deborah Lutz; “Agnes Martin: Her Life and Art,” Nancy Princenthal; “John le Carre: The Biography,” Adam Sisman; “Michelle Obama: A Life,” Peter Slevin; “Stalin’s Daughter: The Extraordinary and Tumultuous Life of Svetlana Alliluyeva,” Rosemary Sullivan.

Poetry in translation: “The School of Solitude: Collected Poems,” Luise Hernandez, translated by Anthony Geist; The Late Poems of Wang An-shih,” translated by David Hinton; “Rilke Shake,” by Angelica Freitas, translated by Hilary Kaplan; “I Burned at the Feast: Selected Poems of Arseny Tarkosky,” translated by Philip Metres and Dimitri Psurtsev; “The Collected Poems of Chika Sagawa,” translated by Sawako Nakayasu.

PEN Translation Prize: “The Complete Stories,” Clarice Lispector, translated by Katrina Dodson; “The Blizzard,” Vladmir Sorokin, translated by Jamey Gambrell; “Crime and Punishment,” Fyodor Dostoyesky, translated by Oliver Ready; “The Physics of Sorrow,” Georgi Gospodinov, translated by Angela Rodel; “Hollow Heart,” Viola Di Grado, translated by Antony Shugaar.

The Pulitzer Prizes will be announced in April. And various websites and critics expect the following to be in contention for the fiction award: “Fortune Smiles,” by Adam Johnson; “Fates and Furies,” by Lauren Groff; “A Little Life,” by Hanya Yanagihara, who won the Kirkus Prize in October; “The Sympathizer,” by Viet Thanh Nguyen; and “A Manual for Cleaning Women,” by Lucia Berlin.

The Texas Institute of Letters is expected to announce its finalists in March, with awards being presented in April. The big prize, of course, is the Lon Tinkle Award, which honors a career in letters. Last year, the award went to Lawrence Wright.

In late January, Valentin Sandoval’s “South Sun Rises” received the Southwest Book Award from the Border Regional Library Association. His novel, which deals with ethnic identity, is set in the Chihuahua desert along the El Paso Juarez border.

Former Defense chief Gates to give lecture at LBJ Library

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Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates will give the third annual Tom Johnson lecture at 6 p.m. Thursday in the auditorium at the LBJ Library.

Gates, author of “Duty,” has recently published another book, “A Passion for Leadership: Lessons on Change and Reform From Fifty Years of Public Service.” He served as secretary of defense under President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama.

He was also president of Texas A&M University from 2002 to 2006 and is serving as the chancellor of the College of William & Mary.

Before the event, Gates will participate in a book signing of “A Passion for Leadership” (Knopf, $27.95). Book sales begin at 4:45 p.m. in the upper auditorium lobby, and he’ll be signing from 5 to 5:45 p.m. Proceeds benefit the LBJ Presidential Library.

The event is free and open to the public. The library will have 125 tickets for the public available starting at 9 a.m. Tuesday.

In “A Passion for Leadership,” Gates makes the case that government bureaucracies can be reformed, and he offers routes to such reforms.

He has led change at the CIA, Texas A&M and the Department of Defense, and he offers an insider’s look at how major bureaus, organizations and companies can be transformed.

Free parking is available in the LBJ Library visitors’ lot (Lot #38), and after 4 p.m. in Lots 37 and 39. The LBJ Auditorium is located on the lower level of the LBJ complex at 2313 Red River St. You may access the auditorium through the lobby of the LBJ School of Public Affairs or through the south auditorium doors by the LBJ Fountain.

A chat with Harrigan

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I sat down recently to talk with Austin author Stephen Harrigan about his upcoming book, “A Friend of Mr. Lincoln,” and the story about his new book is scheduled to be published Jan. 31.

But as usual, everything he said won’t make the article, which focuses mainly on Harrigan’s research of the young Abraham Lincoln as a circuit rider and politician in Springfield in his early days.

So here’s a tidbit from Harrigan on weaving Mary Todd, Lincoln’s wife, into his historical fiction:

“She was really fun to write,” Harrigan said. “You know, certain characters are a struggle for you, but certain characters, when you’re writing, you think, ‘Oh, I know that person.’ And Mary fell into that category where I felt she was someone I’d met and known. And she’s really interesting to put on the page.

As many people know, history hasn’t been particularly kind to Lincoln’s wife and partner. And Harrigan acknowledges that “she was a difficult person.”

“But she was also vivacious and fiercely intelligent. Had she lived in a different time, she’d be accepted. … She’s a woman who is frustrated by history. The only way into a political life for her is to marry some aspiring politician. She was every bit as ambitious as Lincoln was, and much more polished.”