Monday, October 31, 2016

Monday Roundup: TEXAS LITERARY CALENDAR 10/31-11/6

Bookish events in Texas for the week of October 31-November 6, 2016: 

Special Events:
Jewish Book & Arts Fair, Houston, October 29-November 13

29th Annual Dia de los Muertos: Musical and Literary Ofrenda, Houston, November 1

7th Biennial Texas Literary Hall of Fame Inductions, Fort Worth, November 4

First Edition Literary Gala, Austin, November 4

George West Storyfest, November 4-6

El Paso Community College Literary Fiesta, November 5

Lit Crawl Austin, November 5

21st Annual Texas Book Festival, Austin, November 5-6

Ongoing Exhibits:

Tuesday, November 1:
Spider House BallroomAustin Poetry Slam, 8PM


Fort Worth
Forth Worth Public Library - Southwest, WORDSLINGERS: Jacquelyn Mitchard, 6:30PM

Blue Willow Bookshop, Gayle Forman will discuss and sign LEAVE ME, 7PM

Brazos Bookstore, Robert Olen Butler reads and signs PERFUME RIVER, 7PM

River Oaks Bookstore, Variny Yim will read and sign The Immigrant Princess, 6:30PM

Lone Star College, Craig Bunch signs The Art of Found Objects: Interviews with Texas Artists, 12PM

Texas Tech University, Creative Writing Program Reading Series featuring poet Rick Barot, 7:30PM


Friday, November 4:

The Wild Detectives, Eduardo Rabasa, founder and director of Mexican publishing house Sexto Piso, reads from and signs his debut novel A Zero Sum Game, 7:30pm [bilingual event]

University of North Texas, Ann McCutchan reading and signing Where's the Moon? a Memoir of the Space Coast and the Florida Dream, 5PM

Brazos Bookstore, Monica Youn reads from and signs her poetry collection BLACKACRE, 7PM

Inprint House, First Friday Reading Series: poet Michael Lieberman, 8:30PM

The Writer's Garret, Workshop: Getting Your Work Published with Joe Milazzo, 1PM

El Paso
Memorial Park Public Library, Tumblewords Project workshop with Lucie Zavala Hopple: The Read Aloud Autobiography: Your Life Story in a Few Words, 12:45PM

Ysleta Middle School, 2nd Annual Community Conference with author Sergio Troncoso, 9AM


River Oaks Bookstore, Angela Ruth will read and sign Where Poppy Lives, 3PM

University of Houston Writing Center, Glass Mountain presents Write-a-Thon benefiting Boldface Conference, 8AM


The Woodlands

Sunday, November 6:

Friday, October 28, 2016


I reviewed Wolf Boys: Two American Teenagers and Mexico's Most Dangerous Drug Cartel (Simon & Schuster) by Dan Slater for Lone Star Literary Life. “The Mexican immigrant who became the American cop busted the natural-born Americans who became the cartel crooks.”

Dan Slater
Wolf Boys: Two American Teenagers and Mexico’s Most Dangerous Drug Cartel
Simon & Schuster
Hardcover, 978-1-50112-654-7 (also available as a paperback, an ebook, and on Audible), 352 pgs., $26.95
September 13, 2016
“The Mexican immigrant who became the American cop busted the natural-born Americans who became the cartel crooks.”
At nineteen years old, Gabriel Cardona wore Versace, drove a Mercedes SUV, and was “being primed for a managerial position in a global enterprise”—Los Zetas. He was a sicario, an assassin. A United States citizen, Cardona was useful. He could work both sides of the border. Cardona also recruited his friends from the slums of Laredo, including Bart Reta, the second teenager mentioned in the title. He was thirteen when he began working for the Zetas.

Robert Garcia immigrated from Piedras Negras, Mexico, to Eagle Pass, Texas, as a child. After some time in the U.S. Army, he joined the narcotics unit of the police department in Laredo. An Officer of the Year Award earned him an offer to join a Drug Enforcement Administration task force. The whiteboard over Garcia’s desk resembled “a graduate-level math proof that could be worked forever but never solved.” He became disillusioned with the “War on Drugs.” Then Los Zetas arrived. “Without attacking demand in the United States, [Garcia] couldn’t see the point of putting so many resources into stemming only a fraction of traffic. But violence spilling over was another matter.”

Wolf Boys: Two American Teenagers and Mexico’s Most Dangerous Drug Cartel is creative, narrative nonfiction by Dan Slater, a former reporter for the Wall Street Journal. Slater incorporates demographics, sociology, and economics—the elementary supply and demand—in his recounting of this familiar story. He gives it some context with a brief, incomplete history of vice prohibition in the United States. “Every new regulation presented a new smuggling opportunity,” he writes.

The history of Laredo’s politics is interesting, but the picture Slater paints of the border town is unnecessarily harsh. Facts are facts (the patrón system and kickbacks), but Slater’s characterization of Laredo as “a giant, unimproved truck stop” is myopic. The history of cartel formation, beginning with the Gulf Cartel in the 1940s, and continuing with PRI institutional regulation, is well and clearly told. When the PRI fell from power in the 1990s, “privatization” of the drug industry created a new landscape of independent, competitive subsidiaries” and “traffickers preferred to hire private armies rather than outsource ineffective protection to the state.” Enter Los Zetas.

Slater doesn’t romanticize the cartel thugs and their lifestyles as has been done so often, and he gives equal time to Garcia and law enforcement. He provides a thorough breakdown of how the drug business and the cartels operate, complete with vicious details not for the squeamish. Slater is best at the straight facts. When he gets creative, he verges on the purple: “Laredo was the border frontier’s petri dish of implication.” The narrative moves along steadily, keeping the pages turning despite a tendency to repetition, and the sting that finally brings down Cardona and Reta is intense.

Startlingly, Slater admits to buying and using cocaine in Laredo with Cardona’s older brother.

Wolf Boys is a serviceable, if uneven, contribution to the story of Mexican cartels and United States law enforcement. The details are fascinating and provocative without being prurient, but most Texans won’t find much new here.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016



Four Days in the Life of Texas Football


Mac Engel
Photos by Ron Jenkins
Genre: Texas Sports / Football / Photography
Publisher: Lone Star Books
Date of Publication: August 26, 2016
Number of Pages: 240

Scroll down for Giveaway!

You know what they say: Sunday in Texas belongs to God and football; not necessarily in that order. But game time now stretches well beyond Sunday, and Texas football is a phenomenon even bigger than the Lone Star State.

Over a magical four-day period in 2015, both of Texas’s NFL teams played at home on different days, a major high school rivalry played out on Friday night in West Texas, and a fierce regional rivalry came to the Cotton Bowl on Saturday afternoon.

In this first-of-its-kind project, veteran sports journalist and photographer Mac Engel and Ron Jenkins captured it all, and then some: from an illicit tour of the sealed Astrodome, to the locker room at Houston’s Yates school, to the tailgate at the Texans game, to sidelines at Odessa Permian (of Friday Night Lights fame), to the vaunted heights of the guest suite at Cowboys Stadium, bringing to life an amazing cast of characters and scenes. What they find isn’t all glitz and glory – but it’s all riveting, and it’s all essential info for any football fan.

* Amazon *

Lone Star Literary Life Interview by Kay Ellington

Mac Engel & Ron Jenkins
Part 1 of 2

LONE STAR LITERARY LIFE: What inspired you guys to create Pigskin Rapture?

RON JENKINS: Credit for the concept goes directly to publisher Rick Rinehart. Rick waited years — I believe he told me ten years — for the stars to align and the right kind of Texas football games to line up in a such a fashion that this could work.

MAC ENGEL: I'd love to take the credit, but it was Rick Rinehart one hundred percent. He had wanted to do it for a while, and he asked a friend in Denver if he knew a writer in Texas, which was me. And that was about it. Last spring, he found a stretch of four games and that was it. The rest he pretty much gave us carte blanche.

RON: Brilliant idea, Rick!

LSLL: I understand that the concept is four days of four games, but these are not just random four days of games. Each of these games is a spectacle. From Mojo on a Friday night to Texas-OU weekend to Cowboys vs. New England and Texans vs. Indy games. And you guys went even further and took photos to capture the cultural phenomenon that is Texas football. What sort of events did the photos capture?

MAC: Ron Jenkins did the legwork. I had a loose idea of what I wanted to do, and he was great in that everywhere I said I thought we should go, he did it. He did just such a good job of clicking everything we saw. That's not an easy thing to do. He caught the moment better than I ever could have imagined.

RON: The idea was to show the culture of Texas football, not only the action but to dig deeper and bring forth the spirit, which included everything from cooking burgers in the parking lots to the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders performing at the ultimate football venue, the Cowboys’ home, AT&T Stadium.

LSLL: This is your fourth book, Mac. What can you tell us about your other three?

MAC: The first one was a rather fast turnaround about Tony Romo, done in 2007. The second was the history of Texas Stadium, which came out in ... 2008. I think. And the third was a bio with the long time former strength/conditioning coach of the Dallas Cowboys, Dr. Bob Ward.

LSLL: Ron, you have traveled the world as a freelance photographer. What was the creative process like in pulling the images together for Pigskin Rapture?

RON: From the beginning, this project was going to be photographed in “a day in the life of” style. This means, for the most part, running and gunning across the great state of Texas, shooting documentary style. My goal was to do justice for the state and its deep love for football with my images, to capture the mood and spirit in a way that was beautiful and also truthful.


Mac Engel is a columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Since 1998, he has covered the Texas Rangers, Dallas Stars, and Dallas Cowboys as well as colleges, high schools, and the Olympics. His Big Mac Blog was named the best blog in Texas by the Associated Press in 2012.

Fort Worth/Dallas–based contract photographer Ron Jenkins specializes in sports, covering the Dallas Cowboys, Texas Rangers, and Dallas Mavericks as well as NCAA, high school, and everything in between. His photos have been published all over the world, including in French sports magazine L’Equipe, premier German magazine Stern, and the USA’s Sports Illustrated.


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