Wednesday, November 30, 2016


I reviewed The Fisher King: A Jack McBride Mystery (Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.) by Melissa Lenhardt for Lone Star Literary Life! This is the second installment in Lenhardt's Jack McBride mystery series. Her ability to conjure a complete small Texas town is uncanny.

Melissa Lenhardt
The Fisher King: A Jack McBride Mystery 
Skyhorse Publishing
Hardcover, 978-1-5107-0729-0 (also available as an ebook), 380 pgs., $24.99
November 1, 2016

Chief of Police Jack McBride has been on the job for just eight weeks, and the crime rate in Stillwater has apparently soared. The dead bodies are multiplying and high school kids are overdosing on dirty heroin. McBride’s job has become a political football in the city council campaign of powerful, lifelong Stillwater resident Joe Doyle (who looks “like a televangelist and was about as trustworthy”), owner of Doyle Industries, the town’s largest employer, who is also the local drug lord.

McBride has personal problems, too. His ne’er-do-well brother Eddie has taken a job with Doyle Industries; his estranged wife, Julie, has returned after a year of finding herself; and his budding love affair with Ellie Martin is on indefinite hold. As McBride gets ever closer to solving the crime wave, he discovers that he is a target.

The Fisher King: A Jack McBride Mystery is the second novel in Melissa Lenhardt’s series set in the small, fictional East Texas town of Stillwater. In Lenhardt’s first installment in the series, Stillwater, Jack McBride took down the corrupt former chief of police who had been in power for decades, controlling the population through fear, blackmail, and extortion, and by keeping their secrets in return for certain favors. It’s possible to read The Fisher King as a stand-alone, as Lenhardt does a great job of summarizing the goings-on in Stillwater.

The plot in this second installment in the series is simpler than it seems, with multiple subplots well woven in. The pace is quick and steady, accelerating toward the climax, as it should, with plenty of twisty elements to keep you guessing. Lenhardt’s cast is large, but each character is a sharply delineated individual, making the crowd easy to keep straight—except for the moles and double agents. Most of Lenhardt’s characters are believably genuine, excepting Julie McBride, a grown woman who looks “like the quintessential John Hughes movie villainess,” with the maturity of one of the Mean Girls.

One of the best things about The Fisher King is Lenhardt’s uncannily complete evocation of a fictional community. Stillwater rings true and has depth; I think I’ve been there. The small-town Texas personalities are here, as well as the not-so-secrets in a town where everybody knows your name. The conflicts and paradoxes of small towns are here, too. The need for economic revitalization versus an insular populace, suspicious of outsiders. The tendency to decades-old grudges. Historic preservation versus big-box stores.

The Fisher King is like a weekly television soap opera, a cross between Friday Night Lights and Dallas, with touches of Peyton Place for good measure. Lenhardt sets up the third installment expertly, including a new character. The Fisher King isn’t great literature, but it’s entertaining and engrossing fun—a great way to end the second season.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Monday Roundup: TEXAS LITERARY CALENDAR 11/28-12/4

Bookish events in Texas for the week of November 28 - December 4, 2016: 

Special Events:
8th Annual Humanities of Texas Holiday Book Fair, Austin, December 3

Austin Writergrrls Book Fest, December 4

Ongoing Exhibits:
Tuesday, November 29:

San Antonio

Avant Garden, Write About Now Poetry Slam, 7:15PM

San Antonio
River Oaks Bookstore, Rebecca Gordon discusses and signs Your Body and the Stars: The Zodiac as Your Wellness Guide, 6PM

Friday, December 2:
Texas Star Trading Company, Bernard Brown signs his autobiography, Daydreaming About Tough Times, 12PM

BookPeople, MYRA HARGRAVE MCILVAIN speaking & signing The Doctor's Wife, 7PM

Malvern Books, Pterodáctilo Poetry release and Ptamale Party, 6:30PM

B&N - Lincoln Park, Tippi: A Memoir book signing with Tippi Hedron, 7PM


The Museum of Fine Arts Houston, Pulitzer Prize-winning author David Oshinsky discusses and signs Bellevue: Three Centuries of Medicine and Mayhem at America’s Most Storied Hospital, 1:30PM

The University of St. Thomas, Fall 2016 Laurels reading, 4:30PM


Tornado Gallery, Dr. Paul Carlson and Dr. Donald Abbe will sign Historic Lubbock County: An Illustrated History, 6PM

San Marcos
Dahlia Woods Gallery-Bad Boy Books, W.W. McNeal signs Plum Creek, 6:30PM

The Woodlands
The Woodlands Waterway Marriott Hotel, 12th Annual Signatures Author Series Featuring Cheryl Strayed, 10AM

Saturday, December 3:

B&N - Golden Triangle Mall, Pat the Bat story time and signing with local author KD Chapman and illustrator Kelly Stribling Sutherland, 2PM
El Paso
Memorial Park Public Library, Tumblewords Project workshop with Frances “Snookie” Golding: The Masks We Wear, 12:45PM

Fort Worth
The Last Word Bookstore, W.W. McNeal reads and signs Plum Creek, 4PM

B&N - Firewheel Mall, Christy Jordan signs Sweetness: Southern Recipes to Celebrate the Warmth, the Love, and the Blessings of a Full Life, 2PM
River Oaks Bookstore, Kenneth Womack & Robert Trumpbour discuss and sign The Eighth Wonder of the World: The Life of Houston’s Iconic Astrodome, 3PM

North Lake College - Central Campus, The Writers Bloc with Rachel Caine, 2PM

B&N, S.J. Dahlstrom signs The Green Colt, 1PM

B&N, Book signing with Jodi Thomas and Karen Witemeyer, 6PM


The Woodlands

Sunday, December 4:
Half Price Books Mothership Local Author Sundays: Meet local Indie authors and pick up their latest release!

Fort Worth
B&N - Hulen Center, The Changelings book signing with Christina Soontornvat, 2PM

Brazos Bookstore, Holiday Open House, 5PM

San Antonio
B&N - San Pedro, Katharine Folkes signs The Worst Five Months Ever, 2PM

First Unitarian Universalist Church of San Antonio, program with Eben Alexander, author of Proof of Heaven, 3PM

The Twig Book Shop, Linda Davis reads and signs A Christmas to Remember, 11AM

San Marcos
Alkek Library, The Wittliff Collections presents Bill Wittliff discussing, reading, and signing The Devil's Sinkhole, 2PM

B&N, The Myth of Santa's Beard book signing with Sharon Thayer, 2PM

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Monday Roundup: TEXAS LITERARY CALENDAR 11/21-27

Bookish events in Texas for the week of November 21-27, 2016: 

Ongoing Exhibits:

Tuesday, November 22:
The Korova, PuroSlam with DJ Donnie Dee, 10PM

Wednesday, November 23:
Go home. Prepare. Your relatives are en route. Right now.

Thursday, November 24:
Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 25:
Do not shop today. Not today. Maybe tomorrow. But not today.

Saturday, November 26:

Texas Star Trading Company,
Larue, The Whole Enchilada: Fresh and Nutritious Southwestern
Cuisine, 11-1. Ti)any Harelik, The Terlingua Chili Cookbook: Chili’s Last
Texas Star Trading Company, Angeline LaRue signs The Whole Enchilada: Fresh & Nutritious Southwestern Cuisine, 11AM
Texas Star Trading Company, Angelina LaRue signs The Whole Enchilada: Fresh and Nutritious Southwestern Cuisine, 11AM

Texas Star Trading Company, Tiffany Harelik signs The Terlingua Chili Cookbook: Chili's Last Frontier, 12PM

B&N, Fight or Flight: Negotiating Crisis on the Front Line book signing with Dr. Andrew T. Young, 11AM

BookWoman, Indies First-Shop Small Saturday: LOCAL AUTHOR LOVE FEST, 1PM

B&N - Preston/Royal, Karrie Baysinger signs The Roadmap to Successful Investing, 1PM

Half Price Books Mothership, Jeff P. Jones reads, discusses, and signs Love Give Us One Death: Bonnie and Clyde in the Last Days, 1PM

San Antonio
The Twig Book Shop, W.W. McNeal will read and sign Plum Creek, 11AM

Monday, November 14, 2016

Monday Roundup: TEXAS LITERARY CALENDAR 11/14-20

Bookish events in Texas for the week of November 14-20, 2016: 

Special Events:
Simply Wright: N.T. Wright at Perkins School of Theology, Dallas, November 15-17

Zine Fest Houston 2016, November 19

Ongoing Exhibits:
Tuesday, November 15:


San Antonio
The Korova, PuroSlam with DJ Donnie Dee, 10PM

Tobin Library at Oakwell Farms, Voices de la Luna poetry featuring Octavio Quintanilla, 6PM

The Twig Book Shop, Poetry and Fiction Reading at The Twig with Jeanetta Calhoun Mish & Kat Meads, 6:30PM

Wednesday, November 16:
Chez Zee American Bistro, Author Series presents H.W. Brands, 6:15PM

Malvern Books, Austin Community College Creative Writing Faculty Showcase, 7PM
Avant Garden, Write About Now Poetry Slam, 7:15PM

Blue Willow Bookshop, Cressida Cowell will discuss and sign HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON, her series for kids, 5PM

University of Houston, Poetry & Prose presents UH Creative Writing Program Professors Chitra Divakaruni & Peter Turchi, 5:30PM

Thursday, November 17:
Murder By the Book, David Morrell will sign and discuss his latest book, Ruler of the Night, 6:30PM

Poison Girl, Poison Pen Reading Series featuring Gulf Coast Editors, 8:30PM

River Oaks Bookstore, Constance Parks discusses and signs The Secret Place: The Garden of Love, 5PM

Sam Houston State, readings from the works of George Drew and the late Dr. Paul Ruffin celebrate their contributions to poetry and literature, 4:30PM

Lampasas Public Library, Texas Author Series presents Jodi Thomas, 5:30PM

San Marcos
Alkek Library, The Wittliff Collections reading series presents Charles D'Ambrosio, 3:30PM

Friday, November 18:

Katherine Anne Porter Literary Center, KAP reading featuring Charles D'Ambrosio, 7:30PM

San Antonio

Half Price Books - North Lamar, local author Angel Arredondo will sell and sign her children’s book I Love My Red Wagon, 1PM

Malvern Books, Bearing the Mask: Southwestern Persona Poems reading and signing, 7PM

St. Edward's University, Writers' League of Texas workshop: "The Long Middle: What to Do Between Beginning and Ending a Novel" with Greg Garrett, 9AM

The Writing Barn, Workshop: What’s the Point (of View)? with Varian Johnson, 3:30PM

B&N - Parkdale Mall, Acadiana Table: Cajun and Creole Home Cooking from the Heart of Louisiana book signing with George Graham, 2PM
B&N - Preston/Royal, Merrilee Franklin signs The Porch, 1PM

El Paso
Port Neches
Fleur Fine Books, Grand Opening and book signing with Joe R. Lansdale, 10AM

Round Rock
B&N - La Frontera, The Pink Marine book signing with Greg Cope, 2PM

Round Top
Copper Shade Tree, Leon Hale will sign One Man's Christmas, 12PM

San Antonio

Guadalupe Theatre, Macondo Signature Reading Series presents poet Natalie Diaz, 7:30PM

San Antonio Public Library - Igo Branch, San Antonio Romance Authors meeting featuring Jodi Thomas, 10:30AM

The Twig Book Shop, Sylvia Casares discusses and signs The Enchilada Queen Cookbook, 11AM

The Twig Book Shop, Mark Rybczyk discusses and signs San Antonio Uncovered, 6PM

B&N - Town Square, Mary MacKenzie signing The Box of Life, 1PM

B&N, book signing: Road Kill: Texas Horror by Texas Writers, 2PM
The Woodlands
B&N - Woodlands Mall, Maria Ashworth signs Step One, Step Two, Step Three and Four, 2PM

Sunday, November 20:

Friday, November 11, 2016

Review: THE PINK BUS by Christopher Kelly

I reviewed The Pink Bus (Lethe Press) by Christopher Kelly for Lone Star Literary Life. This is fine literary fiction about the first out gay man to run for the United States Senate from Texas.

Christopher Kelly
The Pink BusLethe Press
Paperback, 978-1-59021-613-2 (also available as an ebook), 276 pgs., $20.00
May 18, 2016

Patrick Francis Monaghan, the first out gay man to run for the United States Senate from Texas (“Homosexualis Texas Politicus – something exotic or endangered”), steps out onto the front porch of the Fort Worth Stockyard Museum and is shot. As he lies there, in and out of consciousness, he ponders the “cosmic cruelty that here he was dying—at age forty, just when he had found what had eluded him for so long, a place in the world.” Monaghan experiences a series of flashbacks from his life, beginning in kindergarten at P.S. 42 in Staten Island, New York, where he was called “Peppermint Patty” by the other kids, an “epithet [that] would stick to him like gum in a girl’s long hair.”

The Pink Bus by Lambda award winner Christopher Kelly is fine literary fiction. It’s funny and melancholic in turn, but always ambitious and original. Kelly is a multitalented writer. He’s equally at home with humor, pathos, and political commentary—sometimes in the same sentence. After the shooting, the “American public was shocked, dismayed, for a few days, deeply ashamed of itself.” This is not easy to do, folks.

Kelly makes good use of the history of assassination and attempted assassination in the United States, beginning with John F. Kennedy and working backward to Abraham Lincoln, with a sobering nod to Martin Luther King, Jr., Robert Kennedy, Gabrielle Giffords, et al., prompting reflection on our reliance on violence to solve disputes. “This is American history’s prescription,” Kelly writes, “if your wish is to irrevocably silence a man.” It is shocking to be reminded that four American presidents have been assassinated.

This engaging narrative is quick and steady, moving back and forth from the present to turning points in Monaghan’s past, switching third-person perspectives between Monaghan and Nora Meacham, “his best friend, his toughest critic, his walking, talking bullshit detector.” Friends since college, Meacham is also his campaign manager. Their friendship is complicated; they suspect they are soul mates, but a sexual relationship is out of the question.

Monaghan has conducted a lifelong struggle against gay clichés. There is so much more to him than his sexuality, and he doesn’t want to be defined by that single fact. “I want people to respect and understand me as a gay person,” he says, “but not define me as one. Is that too subtle a distinction to understand?” Kelly is outstanding at simultaneously depicting Monaghan’s outrage and emotional vulnerability.

Kelly evokes the sensitive, anxious child Monaghan who always knew he was gay, who became an adolescent terrified of exposure. At fourteen, he thinks he should “stop being afraid and start demanding justice.” Finally, at forty, he does. “The wheel turns slowly, but gloriously it turns.”

Monday, November 7, 2016

Monday Roundup: TEXAS LITERARY CALENDAR 11/7-13

Bookish events in Texas for the week of November 7-13, 2016: 

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

The 12th Annual Hiett Prize in the Humanities, Dallas, November 9

Literary Lubbock, November 10

Writers in the Schools (WITS) Gala, Houston, November 10

2016 Readers & 'ritas, Allen, November 11-13

Illumine Gala, Austin, November 11

25th Annual San Antonio Express-News Book and Author Lunch, November 11

North Texas Book & Map Show, Arlington, November 11-13

McAllen Book Festival, November 12

Ongoing Exhibits:
Allen Public Library, The Women of Sherlock Holmes, 6:30PM

Aaron Family Jewish Community Center, Rabbi David Eliezrie discusses and signs The Secret of Chabad, 7PM

Tuesday, November 8:
The Dock Bookshop, Fort Worth Poetry Slam and Open Mic: Poetry & Politics, 8PM

San Antonio
The Korova, PuroSlam with DJ Donnie Dee, 10PM

Wednesday, November 9:
BookPeople, MELISSA JOULWAN speaking & signing Well Fed Weeknights: Complete Paleo Meals in 45 Minutes or Less, 7PM

B&N - Lincoln Park, The Wangs vs. the World book signing with Jade Chang, 7PM

The Wild Detectives, Darin Bradley reads and signs Totem, with Merritt Tierce, 7:30PM

Denton South Branch Library, Professor's Corner with Dr. Stephen Souris: The Poetry of Texas Poet Laureate Karla K. Morton, 7PM


Thursday, November 10:
Mr. Catfish & More, NeoSoul Poetry ATX, 8PM

UT - Avaya Auditorium, Michener Center for Writers presents poet Marie Howe, 7:30PM

Corpus Christi
Texas A&M, Islander Creative Writer's Fall Festival, hosted by Switchgrass Review, 6:30PM

Archway Gallery, Archway Readers Poetry Book Launch: Varsha Saraiya-Shah & Loueva Smith, 6:30PM

Blue Willow Bookshop, Jonathan Auxier will discuss and sign his novels for young readers, including SOPHIE QUIRE, THE NIGHT GARDNER and PETER NIMBLE AND HIS FANTASTIC EYES, 5PM

Brazos Bookstore, Sally Connolly reads from and signs her poetry collection GRIEF AND METER, 7PM

Friday, November 11:

Rudyard's Pub, Gulf Coast Reading Series featuring Susan Briante, Sam Dinger, Nathan Stabenfeldt & Alexandra Naumann, 7PM

University of Houston - Central Campus, The Contemporary Project - Till Now: Contemporary Art in Context Lecture Series: Douglas Crimp, author of On the Museum’s Ruins, Melancholia and Moralism: Essays on AIDS and Queer Politics, presents 'Why Dance', 6:30PM

San Antonio
B&N - Bandera Pointe, Teen Author Belle Manuel signing Elemental Series (Fire), 6PM

The Twig Book Shop, Max Krochmal discusses and signs Blue Texas: The Making of a Multiracial Democratic Coalition in the Civil Rights Era (Justice, Power, and Politics), 6PM

South Padre Island
Paragraphs on Padre, Ascension Numerology discussion and book signing with authors Michael Hersey, Ulla Lindgren and Sanhia, 1PM

Saturday, November 12:
Half Price Books - North Lamar, local author Stephanie Ellis will sell and sign her new inspirational book All I Ever Had Was Hope, 1PM

Malvern Books, An Evening with poets George Drew, Wendy Barker, and Barbara Ras, 7PM

St. Edward's University, Writers' League of Texas workshop: "Anatomy of a Chapter: Strategies for Structure Within a Novel" with Stephanie Noll, 9AM

B&N - Fountains at Farah, El Paso Native Felix Valenzuela signs The Salsa Culture Invades America, 2PM

Memorial Park Public Library, Tumblewords Project workshop with Celia Aguilar: The Freedom of Fluidity , 12:45PM

Fort Worth
The Dock Bookshop, A Dark-Skinned Woman’s Revenge Play, followed by talk and book signing with Rashida Strober, 1 & 6PM


Galveston Bookshop, Gina Hooten Popp signs Lucky's Way, 2PM

Harker Heights
B&N, Dr. Richard Cashion signs The Road From Troas: A Legacy Letter Of Faith & Trust, 12PM


Discovery Green, Orbit Slam Series, 6PM

B&N - San Pedro, Belle Manuel signing Fire: The Elemental Series, 2PM

Casa Hernan, The Tacos of Texas Book Party with Mando Rayo, Jarod Neece, Marco Torres, and Dennis Burnett, 4PM

The Twig Book Shop, Shanalee Sharboneau reads and signs My Family Loves Me Children's Series, 11AM

Harris County Public Library - Evelyn Meador Branch, Local Author Mary Sue Anton to discuss her book Tales of a Century-Old Courthouse, 11AM

South Padre Island
Paragraphs on Padre, Meet the Author Series: David Guerra reads and signs Occupied Berlin, 1PM

B&N - Town Square, Jim Reeves signing Dallas Cowboys: Legends of America's Team, 2PM

B&N, Poetry Society of Texas Gulf Coast Poets Chapter meeting featuring Vanessa Zimmer-Powell, 10:30AM

Sunday, November 13:

Malvern Books, Austin Writers Roulette presents "Fuzzy Logic" + open mic, 4PM

Revolution Cafe and Bar, Mic Check Poetry slam, 8:30PM



Writespace, How to Submit Your Work: A Writefest Prep Workshop, 3PM

San Antonio
B&N - San Pedro, Shina James discussion and signing: Monstrous Ties, 2PM

The Twig Book Shop, Mike Monroe discusses and signs 100 Things Spurs Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die, 2PM