Monday, October 29, 2018

Monday Roundup: Texas Literary Calendar Oct 29-Nov 4, 2018

Bookish goings-on in Texas for the week of October 29-November 4, 2018: 

Special Events:

Ongoing Exhibits:
Monday, October 29:
Blue Willow Bookshop, Megan McDonald will discuss and sign JUDY MOODY AND THE RIGHT ROYAL TEA PARTY, 4:30PM

Blue Willow Bookshop, Jasmine Guillory will discuss and sign her new novel THE PROPOSAL, 7PM

Brazos Bookstore, Edward Carey reading and signing LITTLE, 7PM

B&N - Legacy West, What Self-Made Millionaires Do That Most People Don't: 52 Ways to Create Your Own Success book signing with Ann Marie Sabath, 6:30PM

The Mix, PuroSlam: Anything Goes Slam!, 9:30PM

Pearl Stable, the San Antonio Book Festival presents GET LIT with Julián Castro discussing his memoir, An Unlikely Journey, with Congressman Joaquin Castro, 5:30PM

Wednesday, October 31:

WTAMU, Undead Shakespeare, 6PM

Aaron Family JCC, Dallas Jewish Bookfest presents Michael W. Waters, author of Stakes Is High: Race, Faith, and Hope for America, 7PM

UNT - Willis Library, Dr. Bruce Bond will read and discuss poems from his new book,  Frankenstein's Children, followed by a book signing, 5:30PM

Fort Worth
TCU, A Forum Celebrating 200 Years of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, 7PM

Avant Garden Bar, Write About Now Halloween-Themed Open Mic & Costume Party, 7:30PM

Murder By the Book, Clue-Themed Halloween Party, 6:30PM

Thursday, November 1:
UTSA, Dr. Jennifer Carlson will discuss her book Citizen Protectors: The Everday Politics of Guns in an Age of Decline, 6PM

Sugar Land
B&N - First Colony, Story time with local author Maria Ashworth, 10AM

University of Houston, American Book Review Reading Series featuring Carina Chocano, 11AM

Friday, November 2:
BookPeople, MARTIN LIMÓN speaking and signing The Line and A.R. ASHWORTH speaking & signing Two Faced, 7PM

Malvern Books, launch of Kristy Peloquin’s Adrift: A Collection of Poems, 7PM

Evocation Coffee Roasting House, Haiku Death Match presented by High Plains Poetry Project, 6PM

Half Price Books Mothership, Dallas Meets Kallisto Gaia Press, 7PM

Interabang Books, Eryk Pruitt Townies: and Other Stories of Southern Mischief, 7PM

SMU, World Affairs Council of DFW hosts Joanne Freeman discussing and signing Field of Blood: Violence in Congress and the Road to Civil War, 6PM

Body, Mind & Soul, "Living Fire, Day Of the Dead: Upheaval, Regeneration and November 2018" with Dan Furst, who will also sign his newest book, The Rain on the Nile, 7PM

Brazos Bookstore, Bernardo Esquinca reading and signing THE OWLS ARE NOT WHAT THEY SEEM, 7PM

Discovery Green, WITS hosts Youth Performance Poetry Sessions, 6:30PM

Inprint House, First Friday Poetry Reading Series presents ANDRĖ DE KORVIN, 8:30PM

Marble Falls 
Marble Falls Library, Donna Marie Miller discussing and signing The Broken Spoke: Austin’s Legendary Honky-Tonk, 12PM

San AntonioUTSA, Creative Writing Program Reading Series featuring Barbara Neely, 6PM

Saturday, November 3:
B&N - Arboretum, Meet Rebecca Donovan signing Scorned, Torn and Reborn, 2PM
BookPeople, THOMAS JOSEF speaking & signing Incoming!: Secrets of a Contract Warrior in Afghanistan, 5PM
Fort Worth
Central Library, Exploring Lost Restaurants of Fort Worth with Celestina Blok, 10:30AM

San Antonio
B&N, Bert Lindsey signing Quick Tender, 2PM

Sunday, November 4:

BookPeople, MATTHEW ODAM speaking & signing 2018 Austin360 Dining Guide: The Best Places to Eat in Austin, 5PM

BookWoman, In the Beginning: A poetry reading with Susan J. Rogers, 3:30PM

The Published Page Bookshop, Cleburne Holiday Open House Book Signing, 1PM

St. Regis Hotel, The Armadillo’s Tea will raise funds for Houston Grand Opera’s HGOco, the company’s community outreach and collaboration arm, as it celebrates the launch of The Armadillo’s Dream, a children’s book authored by HGOco Touring Programs Manager Dennis Arrowsmith, 3PM

Half Price Books, Half Price Books Mother Ship, Meet local Indie authors and pick up their latest release, while supplies last

The Drawing Board, Writing Workshops Dallas seminar: "How to Write Science Fiction That Sells" with Nebula Award-winner William Ledbetter, 3PM

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Review: THE MAN WHO WALKED BACKWARD by Ben Montgomery

I reviewed The Man Who Walked Backward: An American Dreamer's Search for Meaning in the Great Depression (Little, Brown Spark) by reporter and Pulitzer Prize-finalist Ben Montgomery for Lone Star Literary Life. This is narrative nonfiction at its finest.

Ben Montgomery
The Man Who Walked Backward: An American Dreamer’s Search for Meaning in the Great Depression
Little, Brown Spark
Hardcover, 978-0-3164-3806-3 (also available as an e-book and an audio-book), 304 pgs., $28.00
September 18, 2018
“Don’t worry. Do something.”
On April 15, 1931, Plennie Wingo, 36, of Abilene, Texas, donned a pin-striped suit, a tie, a fedora, and a pair of sunglasses specially fitted with side rear-view mirrors and set out to traverse the world walking backward. Wingo’s café, which fed and housed him and his wife and daughter during the Roaring Twenties, went belly-up as the country plunged into the darkness of what would become known as the Great Depression. Wingo’s arrest for serving alcohol during the folly of Prohibition didn’t help, either.

Wingo claimed to be trying to earn some money to provide for his family and maybe that was originally the impetus, but Wingo carried on with his stunt after none of his attempts to be sponsored — preferably by the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce in return for global advertising in the form of a sandwich board, then maybe by a shoe manufacturer, then hopefully by a company that made rubber soles for footwear — panned out. Wingo financed his Grand Tour by selling postcards of himself facing backward (but who could discern that from a photograph?). Surprisingly, the postcard sales worked pretty well.

Oh, the places he went and the sights he saw! During his grand adventure, Wingo depended upon the kindness of strangers and was (usually) not disappointed. He walked 2,000 some-odd miles across sixteen states, from Fort Worth to Boston, where he got a berth, in return for his labor, on the Seattle Spirit (which would be torpedoed the very next year by a German submarine) headed for Hamburg, Germany. He ultimately made it as far as Istanbul, Turkey (where he had tea with Queen Maria of Yugoslavia), backward-walking.

Wingo encountered quarrelsome cops, jealous husbands, and “gypsies”; was thrown into not a few jail cells (“Things began to look bleak for Plennie around day seven in the Turkish jail”); and was deloused once. His return from Europe involved an Italian mystery man and a few suspicious trunks of he-claims-not-to-know-what.

Wingo also experienced the best of the species, people of all races and nationalities who became fast friends and provided a meal, a bed, fresh clothes, cash (a crowd of Romanians passed the hat), and, in one instance, an escort to the Czech border by a contingent of lumberjacks, to this peculiar American who inspired them against a backdrop of Al Capone’s soup kitchen, banks collapsing, dusty bowls, plagues of grasshoppers, MacArthur ordering the murder of the children of veterans camped out on the Potomac River, and the rise of something called the Nationalist Socialist Party in Germany.

The Man Who Walked Backward: An American Dreamer’s Search for Meaning in the Great Depression is Pulitzer Prize–nominated journalist Ben Montgomery’s third book of nonfiction and his second book about an unusual pedestrian. The Man Who Walked Backward is a richly textured, elegantly constructed cry against convention in a country which has battled between stultifying convention and “rugged individualism” since its earliest days.

Montgomery’s narrative is quick and even while incorporating asides into the flow. His personality permeates his writing and adds to the experience rather than distracting from it. Montgomery is fondly indulgent of Wingo though not adverse to gently but firmly calling him out on his self-serving justifications and disingenuous rationalizations with a sharp, clear-eyed wit — and a pun or two (no small feat) — when deemed necessary.

Fun fact: if you walk backward far enough, your legs appear as if your calves (“like ripe grapefruit”) have migrated to your shins. Imagine.

Another fun fact: “Walking backward around the world” in German is “Rückwärts rund um die welt.”

Montgomery has a gift for the well-turned phrase and for succinctly capturing the character of historical events and periods and how those events affect the character of individuals. Of the 1920s, Montgomery writes, “What followed [World War I] was optimism, and mass production, and the mass production of optimism.” The introduction of radio into homes birthed “a controversial new offense on family circles called a ‘commercial.’”

The author’s use of language is a joy. Environmental devastation caused by certain farming and mining practices leaves a debilitated landscape and human suffering as “a reminder of the toll of the taking.” That’s my new favorite phrase, the toll of the taking. Crossing the Atlantic, one of Wingo’s jobs was to squeegee the cabins but he was profoundly seasick and so his vomiting “erased considerably his squeegee productivity.” A disgusting image but a hilarious phrase followed by touching emotion: Wingo comes to a fork in the road in a Bavarian forest. The snowfall had finally stopped and sunlight was filtering through the dense branches causing the snow to sparkle. “[Wingo] stood for a long time, watching, listening, his breath visible, the full moon rising over the woods,” Montgomery writes. “[Wingo] had walked at least twelve miles in the wrong direction. He was happy to be lost.”

The epilogue is a neat compilation of updates on people and situations mentioned as context throughout The Man Who Walked Backward. Capone died from a heart attack in his mansion in Florida in 1947. Native Americans “refused to vanish, despite attempts to brainwash tens of thousands of Indian children in boot-camp boarding schools” and built casinos which finally recouped some of the money owed them by Anglos for stolen land. Americans raised a glass to the death of Prohibition. FDR refused to allow Charles Lindbergh to enlist in the army on account of Lindbergh being a Nazi.

And Plennie Wingo? It’s 1976 and he’s on “The Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson. Wingo’s world record for distance stands.

Narrative nonfiction is a form which allows for a broader picture of the subject, not just a portrait but a landscape showing where the subject fits in time and place, the influences of circumstances both large and small. An intriguing mix of biography and history, seasoned with dashes of science, sociology, and psychology, leavened with Montgomery’s sly wit, The Man Who Walked Backward is the best sort of narrative nonfiction, using the micro of Plennie Wingo’s journey to tell us something about the macro state of us in the 1930s. Indeed, in our love of spectacle and self-promotion, which has culminated in the election of a walking spectacle as president, we haven’t changed much.
“A man had come, and he would be remembered, and what more could he ask?”
Originally published in Lone Star Literary Life.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Monday Roundup: Texas Literary Calendar Oct 22-28, 2018

Bookish goings-on in Texas for the week of October 22-28, 2018: 
Special Events:
Friends of the Dallas Public Library Annual Gala, Oct 25

2018 Kirkus Awards Ceremony, Austin, Oct 25

National Black Book Festival, Houston, Oct 25-27

East Texas Rose Con, Tyler, Oct 26-28

Lit Crawl Austin, Oct 27

Texas Book Festival, Austin, Oct 27-28

Bloody Bacchanal (The Witchery's annual masquerade for charity), Galveston, Oct 27

Halloween ComicFest, various locations, Oct 27

ROCO Connections: Musical & Literary Ofrenda 2018, Houston, Oct 28

Ongoing Exhibits:

The Texas Liberator: Witness to the Holocaust exhibition (from the book The Texas Liberators: Veteran Narratives from World War II), Houston, September 7-October 28

Texas Writers exhibition, Fort Stockton, October 1-22

Traversing Dimensions: An Exploration of Diversity in Science Fiction, Austin, October 1-31

Finding Sophie Blackall Exhibition, Abilene, October 11-February 1

Cullen Performance Hall, Inprint's Margarett Root Brown reading series presents Barbara Kingsolver discussing and reading Unsheltered, 7:30PM [ticketed event]

Midtown Arts and Theatre Center Houston, Rice Architecture presents Sharing Lecture Series: Jack Self, architect, director of the REAL foundation, writer, and editor-in-chief of the Real Review, 7PM

B&N - Vista Ridge, playwright Don Zolidis signing his first novel, The Seven Torments of Amy and Craig, 7PM

San Antonio
The Twig Book Shop, Mark Falkin reading and signing The Late Bloomer, 5PM

Tuesday, October 23:
David Sutherland (Dallas Design Center), Martyn Thompson signs Work Space: An Insight Into the Creative Heart and Interiors, 6PM

Deep Vellum, Censorship Session 2: the history of censorship, its current reach, and the reasons for its staying power, 7PM

Moody Performance Hall, Storytelling: Oral Fixation presents "The Best of Season 6," 7:30PM

UNT, Visiting Writers Series hosts Colin Barrett, 8PM

Fort Worth
TCU, 2018 Fogelson Honors Forum: An Evening with Cathy Davidson, author of Now You See It and The New Education, 7PM


Murder By the Book, an evening of refreshments and a peek at Penguin Random House's upcoming season with sales reps Brian Contine, Liz Sullivan, and Emily Smolarek (All preview titles will be 20% off), 6:30PM

Rice University, Israeli poet and writer Tehila Hakimi will read from and discuss her work and talk about work as a place of tension as well as inspiration in writing, 12PM

St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, Brazos Bookstore hosts Yuyi Morales reading and signing DREAMERS, 6PM

Wilchester Elementary School, Blue Willow Bookshop hosts Nathan Hale discussing and signing LAFAYETTE!, his newest graphic novel for young readers, 5PM

San Antonio
The Twig Book Shop, Alice Rhea Mitchell & Sheryl K. Perry reading and signing Our Game and Scooter Mouse and the Teddy Bears, 5PM

Thursday, October 25:

Murder By the Book, Michael Harvey will sign and discuss Pulse, 6:30PM

Poison Girl, Poison Pen Reading Series featuring Michelle Orsi, Ryan Cal, and Jason Koo, 8:30PM

River Oaks Bookstore, Jay Wehnert discussing and signing Outsider Art in Texas: Lone Stars, 5PM

Kerr Arts & Cultural Center, Mike Marvins discusses and signs The Texas Hill Country: A Photographic Adventure, ?

Trinity University, Distinguished Scientists Lecture Series: Gretchen C. Daily will discuss and sign her books with photographer Charles Katz, Jr., The Power of Trees and One Tree / Un árbol único, 7:30PM

The Twig Book Shop, Brandon Dion discussing and signing The Remote Generation, 5PM

Sugar Land
B&N - First Colony, Story time with local author Maria Ashworth, 10AM

Friday, October 26:
Bath House Cultural Center, Storytelling: 15th Annual Ghost Tales at the Bath House for Adults, 7PM

Deep Vellum Books, Pegasus Reading Series featuring Cassia Hameline, Emily Riggert, Alex Temblador, and Dashaun Washington, 7PM

Heroes Lounge, Dallas Poetry Slam presents GNO's 50th Birthday Celebration, 7PM

Fort Worth
Ridglea Country Club, World Affairs Council of DFW hosts Michael Beschloss, NBC News presidential historian and author, discussing and signing Presidents of War, 11:30AM

Books-A-Million, Meet & Greet with Tucker Carlson signing Ship of Fools: How a Selfish Ruling Class is Bringing America to the Brink of Revolution, 4PM

Blue Willow Bookshop, I Read YA Event: Kody Keplinger, Eliot Schrefer, and Scott Westerfeld, 7PM

Brazos Bookstore, Reyna Grande discussing and signing A DREAM CALLED HOME, 7PM

Murder By the Book, Jeff Abbott will sign and discuss his newest stand-alone thriller, The Three Beths, and Lou Berney will sign and discuss November Road, 6:30PM

Revention Music Center, Glenn Beck presents his new book, Addicted to Outrage, 8PM

Katherine Anne Porter Literary Series, KAP Literary Series hosts a reading with Kim Barnes and Robert Wrigley, 7:30PM

San AntonioB&N - San Pedro, Guadalupe Garcia McCall and David Bowles signing All the Stars Denied and They Call Me Guero, respectively, 5PM

Fort Wort
Monkey & Dog Books, Halloween in Four Acts, 10:30AM

B&N - River Oaks, Jonathan Feigen signing 100 Things Rockets Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die, 1PM

Brazos Bookstore, Jeff Kripal and Elizabeth G. Krohn discussing and signing CHANGED IN A FLASH, 7PM


Round Rock
B&N - San Pedro, Annual Halloween Bash, 11AM

B&N - San Pedro, Mick J. Prodger and Vito Cellini signing Cellini: Freedom Fighter, 2PM

Bihl Haus, "When the Politics Became Art: Willie Velasquez and the Creative Journey toward Democracy," a gallery talk by Barbara Renaud Gonzalez and signing for her new book on Willie Velasquez, Dear San Antonio, I'm Gone but Not Lost, 2PM

Hotel Emma, pitmaster Adrian Davila and Cowboy Barbecue: Fire & Smoke from the Original Texas Vaqueros, 11AM

The Twig Book Shop, Neela Vaswani signing This is My Eye, 11AM

B&N, Jan F. Whitaker signing Power Words: How to Live Successful in a Challenging World; Revitalizing Inspirational Thought Conditioners, 2PM

Sunday, October 28:
BookWoman, TORCH: A Reading with Shayla Lawson & Anastacia-Renee and open mic (hosted by Amanda Johnston), 1PM

College Station
Brazos Bookstore, Scott Kelly discussing and signing INFINITE WONDER, 5PM

Inprint House, Tintero Project writing workshop featuring Zachary Caballero, 6PM

River Oaks Bookstore, Jeffery Tracey, Sr. discussing and signing Brainwashed by Foster Parents, 3PM

Writespace, Workshop: "Start Your Novel: Conquering the Freshman Fifteen (Pages!)" with Tex Thompson, 9:30AM

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Excerpt: THE WHOLE DAMN CHEESE by Bill Wright

Genre: Biography / Texana 
Publisher: Texas Christian University Press 
Facebook   Instagram   Twitter
Publication Date: October 12, 2018
Number of Pages: 160 pages with B&W photos

Anecdotes about Maggie Smith abound, but Bill Wright’s The Whole Damn Cheese is the first book devoted entirely to the woman whose life in Big Bend country has become the stuff of legend. For more than twenty years, Maggie Smith served folks on both sides of the border as doctor, lawyer, midwife, herbalist, banker, self-appointed justice of the peace, and coroner. As she put it, she was “the whole damn cheese” in Hot Springs, Texas. A beloved figure serving the needs of scores of people in Big Bend country, she was also an accomplished smuggler with a touch of romance as well as larceny in her heart. Maggie’s family history is a history of the Texas frontier, and her story outlines the beginnings and early development of Big Bend National Park. Her travels between Boquillas, San Vincente, Alpine, and Hot Springs define Maggie’s career and illustrate her unique relationships with the people of the border. Vividly capturing the rough individualism and warm character of Maggie Smith, author Bill Wright demonstrates why this remarkable frontier woman has become an indelible figure in the history of Texas.



Maggie had a dry sense of humor and wasn’t reluctant to express herself. Once a woman wearing shorts and her family came down to Hot Springs. It was on a Sunday. She asked Maggie if there was a church nearby. Maggie advised the couple that the nearest church was in Alpine, almost a hundred miles away. The woman asked Maggie, “Well, what do you do to go to church?” Maggie said, “I don’t go to church. There’s no church to go to.” The lady said, “I think that’s ridiculous!” Maggie, who believed in modesty, was quick with a retort: “Well, if you want to know what is ridiculous, it’s you going around half naked. That’s more ridiculous than me not going to church. I can’t go to church, but you can put on some clothes!” she said, laughing. 

Maggie met all sorts of people who came to take the baths. Some of them were surprised at the primitive nature of the accommodations, but Maggie managed, in her direct and honest way, to win them over. She never let them get the upper hand. One patron who came from Louisiana complained about the situation: a hundred miles of dirt roads, hot weather, and other difficulties. He stated it was supposed to be a beautiful park and asked Maggie, “What part do you play?” She responded, “I’m the whole damn cheese here at Hot Springs if you want to know!” That settled the man down, and she later received a letter from him addressed, “Dear whole damn cheese.” After staying a couple of days, they became good friends. He fell in love with the country, becoming a regular customer, and later sent Maggie a pair of mounted steer horns as a gift.


For thirty-five years Bill Wright owned and managed a wholesale and retail petroleum marketing company. In 1987 he sold his company to his employees and since then has carved out a remarkable career as an author, fine art photographer, and ethnologist. He has written or contributed to seven books, and his photographs appear in Fort Worth’s Amon Carter Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center of the University of Texas at Austin, and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC.

10/17/18                Excerpt                              Texas Book Lover
10/18/18                Character Interview           All the Ups and Downs
10/19/18                Character Interview           Max Knight
10/20/18                Author Interview               That's What She's Reading
10/21/18                Review                               Hall Ways Blog
10/22/18                Scrapbook Page                 StoreyBook Reviews
10/23/18                Review                               The Book Review
10/24/18                Excerpt                               Reading by Moonlight
10/25/18                Review                               Forgotten Winds
10/26/18                Review                               The Clueless Gent

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