Wednesday, November 27, 2019


I reviewed An Equal Justice (Thomas & Mercer) by 
Austin's Chad Zunker for Lone Star Literary Life. Zunker shines when his homeless characters and the people who work with them take center stage in this first installment of a new legal-thriller series. This is a good choice for Thanksgiving.

Chad Zunker
An Equal Justice
Thomas & Mercer
Paperback (also available as an e-book, an audiobook, and on audio CD), 978-1-5420-4308-3, 222 pgs., $15.95
November 1, 2019

Benny Dugan, sixty-two, is searching the downtown alleys for a young man who didn’t show up for his kitchen shift at the homeless camp in East Austin where they both live. Dugan has been living on the streets for more than fourteen years, but he’s unsettled tonight, worried about his missing neighbor and suspecting that he’s being followed. Dugan doesn’t make it out of the alley alive.

Six weeks earlier, David Adams had arrived in Austin for his dream job at Hunter & Kellerman, the city’s most prestigious white-shoe law firm. A West Texas football star who grew up in grinding poverty after the death of his father, Adams went to college on a sports scholarship and then worked his way through Stanford Law. The posh offices in the Frost Bank Tower and his swanky new apartment in the Austonian are everything he’s always wanted, but the apparent suicide of a fellow attorney and the murder of his new friend, Dugan, force Adams to confront what’s really going on with Hunter & Kellerman.

An Equal Justice by Austin’s Chad Zunker is the first volume in his new legal thriller series starring David Adams. The author dedicates this book to Alan Graham, co-founder of Austin’s storied homeless outreach organization, Mobile Loaves and Fishes (read our review of Graham’s book, Welcome Homeless: One Man’s Journey of Discovering the Meaning of Home), who introduced him to Austin’s homeless population more than a decade ago. In An Equal Justice Zunker marries, with mixed results, his preferred genre, thrillers, with his passion for social justice; however, there are gems scattered throughout this novel, and I anticipate smoother results in the next installment.

There are clues amidst the glitter that all is not well (people with secrets shouldn’t drink so much), but Adams discounts his misgivings, even when he is explicitly warned by a colleague at his first firm dinner. Comparisons to Grisham’s The Firm (Doubleday, 1991) are unavoidable; the seduction of big money and a luxe lifestyle are, for a time, effective blinders to ambitious young men from modest means.

Zunker constructs a plot that flows well and deftly reveals the cracks in the façade. He skillfully inserts twists that intrigue and keep the pages turning. He gifts his characters with rich back stories that explain their present circumstances and their motivations, good and bad.

There are some awkward word choices, and Zunker slips into stating the obvious, but there are also apt, sometimes playful, descriptions. Adams decides he could build a fort around his desk with all of the files he has to work on, and he likens plucking a cell phone from the hands of his sleeping boss to Operation, the classic children’s game.

The Range Rovers, Calvin Klein suits, Gulfstream jets, and the vapid personalities of Adams’s new clique become tiresome quickly, but Zunker shines when his homeless characters and the people who work with them take center stage. Dugan’s tent in the homeless camp is half the size of Adams’s closet. When Adams and Dugan meet, Adams decides that Dugan “either held the keys to peace, or he was as crazy as a loon.” Discovering which of those possibilities is true is one of the main pleasures of An Equal Justice.

The next book in the David Adams series, An Unequal Defense, is expected in May of 2020.

Originally published by Lone Star Literary Life.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Monday Roundup: Texas Literary Calendar Nov 25-Dec 1, 2019

Bookish goings-on in Texas for the week of November 25-December 2, 2019 compiled exclusively for Lone Star Literary Life by Texas Book Lover. 

Old Town Books Grand Opening, San Angelo, November 29-30

Indies First/Small Business Saturday, nationwide, November 30

The Essential J. Frank Dobie, San Marcos, through December 1

Modernist Networks: The Annette Campbell-White Collection, Austin, August 24-January 5

Yuyi Morales: Soñadora, Abilene, November 14-May 28, 2020

The Black Orchid Lounge, Barbed Wire Open Mic Series, 8PM

Fort Worth
The Dock Bookshop, Poetry Open Mic, 8PM
Whistling Duck, Slamsgiving Poetry and Beer, 8PM

San Antonio
The Mix, PuroSlam with DJ Donnie Dee, 9:30PM

B&N - Baybrook, Poetry Reading and Open Mic, 7:30PM

El Paso
El Velvet Elvis, Barbed Wire Open Mic Series, 9PM

Happy Thanksgiving! Don't read at the table--unless you're reading to each other. 
Heroes Lounge, Dallas Poetry Slam presents Imani Cezanne, 8PM

El Paso
Fahrenheit 180, Barbed Wire Open Mic Series, 8:30PM

Fort Worth
The Dock Bookshop, Black Friday Customer Appreciation: $5 Fill-Ups, 1PM

Patchouli Joe's Books & Indulgences, Black Friday: specials and gift-card drawings, all day

Texas Star Trading Co., Children's author David Goodner signing his Ginny Goblin books on Small Business Saturday, 1PM
Half Price Books - Southpark Meadows, mystery author Deanna King signing Twist of Fate, 12PM

Half Price Books - S. Lamar, mystery author Deanna King signing Twist of Fate and her children's book, Gracie's Story, 3PM

Patrick Heath Public Library, Tammie Jo Shults discussing and signing the young readers edition of her book, Nerves of Steel, 11AM

Community Beer Company, Small Business Saturday: the Bibliobus will be at the Boho Market, 1PM
River Oaks Bookstore, Robert D. Jacobus discussing and signing Black Man in the Huddle: Stories from the Integration of Texas Football, 3PM

Patchouli Joe's Books & Indulgences, Small Business Saturday: specials and gift-card drawings, all day

San Antonio
The DoSeum, Guest Author Series: Carmen Tafolla, former Texas Poet Laureate, 11:30AM

The Twig Book Shop, Nick Green signing The Mountain, 11AM

San Marcos
Half Price Books, Jo Ann Lipscomb signing her Christian self-help book, My Gift Revealed My Purpose, 12PM

The Storybook Garden, Shop Small for Indies First special event, all day
B&N - Arboretum, Deanne King signing Twist of Fate, 2PM

Monday, November 18, 2019

Monday Roundup: Texas Literary Calendar Nov 18-24, 2019

Bookish goings-on in Texas for the week of November 18-24, 2019 compiled exclusively for Lone Star Literary Life by Texas Book Lover. 

Border Tuner/ Sintonizador Fronterizo, El Paso, November 18

Heritage Auctions: Comics, Dallas, November 21-23

The Essential J. Frank Dobie, San Marcos, through December 1

Modernist Networks: The Annette Campbell-White Collection, Austin, August 24-January 5

Yuyi Morales: Soñadora, Abilene, November 14-May 28, 2020

BookPeople, Ace Atkins reading and signing Robert B. Parker's Angel Eyes, 7PM

Central Presbyterian Church, Cecile Richards discussing Make Trouble Young Readers Edition, 6:30PM [ticketed event]

The Hockaday School, World Affairs Council DFW presents Ambassador Samantha Power discussing and signing The Education of an Idealist: A Memoir, 7:30PM

Fort Worth
TCU, The Live Oak Reading Series featuring Taneum Bambrick aned Graham Barnhart, 6:30PM

Project Row Houses, Brazos Bookstore presents Sarah Broom reading and signing The Yellow House (in conversation with Emerson Zora Hamsa), 7PM

Richardson Public Library, Writers Guild of Texas workshop: "The Organized Writer" with Kathryn McClatchy, 7PM

El Paso
The Station at Sunset, Barbed Wire Open Mic Night, 8PM

Fort Worth
The Dock Bookshop, Poetry Open Mic, 8PM
Murder By the Book, Michael Pullara discussing and signing The Spy Who Was Left Behind, 6:30PM

North Richland Hills
North Richland Hills Library, NaNoWriMo Writing Workshop: From Draft to Print, 7PM

San Antonio
Robin Library at Oakwell, Voices de la Luna monthly literary workshop with 2018 Texas Poet Laureate Carol Coffee Reposa followed by an open mic, 6PM

The Twig Book Shop, Marc Grossberg reading and signing The Best People: A Tale of Trials and Errors, 5PM

Fabled Bookshop & Cafe, Autumn Krause reading and signing A Dress for the Wicked, 7PM

Austin Central Library, Stephen Harrigan discussing and signing Big Wonderful Thing: A History of Texas (in conversation with Texas Monthly Executive Editor Mimi Swartz), 7PM

LBJ Library, An evening with Ambassador Susan Rice, author of Tough Love: My Story of the Things Worth Fighting For, 6PM [Friends event]

Malvern Books, Austin Community College Creative Writing Event: A Night with Spoken Word Artists Joaquín Zihuatanejo and Taria Person, 7PM

Lone Star College - Montgomery, winners of the Student Veteran Creative Writing Contest will read their winning prose and poems with Dr. W. D. Ehrhart, 7PM

Alexander Mansion, The Dallas Women's Forum presents bestselling Texas authors Jodi Thomas, Rachael Miles, and Celia Bonaduce for a book signing and discussion of A Texas Kind of Christmas, 6PM
Avant Garden, Write About Now: Poetry Slam featuring Pages Matam, 7:30PM

Rice University, Graduate Colloquium Public Lecture: Eli Clare, author of Brilliant Imperfection: Grappling with Cure, will discuss Cure, Disability, and Natural Worlds, 4PM

River Oaks Bookstore, Terri Havens discussing and signing Beautiful Living: Cooking the Cal-a-Vie Health Spa Way, 5PM

B&N - Legacy West, Open-Mic Poetry Night, 7PM

San Antonio
Berry to Bean, Sun Poet's Society Open-Mic Poetry Readings, 7PM

The Twig Book Shop, Camaron Brooks discussing and signing Lost Between the Mess and the Magic, 5PM

San Marcos
Texas State University, author Donna Marie Miller and the Broken Spoke's founder James White discuss The Broken Spoke: Austin's Legendary Honky-Tonk, 2PM
UTA, Bilingual Poetry Reading with Balam Rodrigo, author of el libro centroamericano de los muertos, 12:30PM

Fabled Bookshop & Cafe, Sabrina Fountain and Greg Garrett discussing and signing The Courage to See, 7PM

Friday, November 22:
BookPeople, Pete Souza signing Shade: A Tale of Two Presidents, 7PM [voucher event]

Deep Vellum Books, Pegasus Reading Series featuring Taneum Bambrick, Graham Barnhart, Molly Bess Rector, and Jess Smith, 7PM

Heroes Lounge, Dallas Poetry Slam presents Finger Snaps & Laugh Tracks, 8PM

Lawndale Art Center, Gulf Coast Reading Series featuring Benjamin Garcia, 7PM
Texas Star Trading Co., Richard Beck signing The Gospel According to Johnny Cash, 11AM

B&N - Arboretum, a book signing with J.M. Buckler, 2PM

BookPeople, Alyssa Banta discussing and signing The Texas Ranch Sisterhood, 5PM

dadageek, Hello Neighbor (group exhibition by vurv & Chicon Street Poets), 7PM

Malvern Books, the launch of Roberto Ontiveros’s debut story collection, The Fight for Space, 7PM

Patrick Heath Public Library, workshop: The Art of Writing with D. Ellis Phelps, 1PM

Lone Star College - CyFair, Poetry of Gratitude: An Interactive Writing Workshop, 1PM

Half Price Books Mother Ship, Interabang Books presents Walt Gragg reading and signing The Chosen One, 7PM


River Oaks Bookstore, Artist Carolyn Dahl reading and signing Art Preserves What Can’t Be Saved, 3PM

B&N - Palms Crossing, Meet the Author: K.T. Castle, 2PM

The Blind Pig, Open Mic Night, 7PM

San Antonio
Bihl Haus, Beyond Service: Poetry and Prose Reading, 2PM

Quaker Meeting House, Tellabration: night of storytelling with the San Antonio Storytellers Association, 7PM

Tobin Library, poet Kristin T. De La Garza signing Grains of Graphite, 1:30PM

The Twig Book Shop, Micki Pavlicek signing May All People and Pigs Be Happy, 11AM

B&N - Town Square, Laura Sook Duncombe signing A Pirate's Life for She, 1PM
The Wild Detectives, Backyard Story Night - Dallas Edition, 7PM

Brasil Houston, Public Poetry presents Enough Anthology book launch, 3PM

Half Price Books - Clear Lake, NaNoWriMo writing sprints: win a gift card!, 12PM

Patchouli Joe's Books & Indulgences, NaNoWriMo Writers' Refuge, 11AM

The Drawing Board, Writing Workshops Dallas seminar: "How to Pitch to Magazines" with Alex Temblador, 3PM

The Drawing Board, Writing Workshops Dallas seminar: "Submission Tools & Tricks" with Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam, 3PM

Thursday, November 14, 2019


I reviewed Seven Samurai Swept Away in a River (Deep Vellum Publishing) by Jung Young Moon (translated from the Korean by Yewon Jung) for Lone Star Literary Life.

Jung Young Moon (trans. from the Korean by Yewon Jung)
Seven Samurai Swept Away in a River
Deep Vellum Publishing
Paperback, 978-1-9419-2085-5, 168 pgs., $14.95
December 10, 2019
“It’s winter now, and I’m in Texas, and I’m writing this, a story about Texas, but at the same time, a story that deviates from being a story about Texas, a story that does, indeed, go back to being a story about Texas, something that I’m writing in the name of a novel but something that is perhaps unnamable.”
In the fall of 2017, knowing nothing of Texas except “a notorious Texas” (Oswald, Bonnie and Clyde, No Country for Old Men), Jung Young Moon arrives for a writer’s residency at 100 West Corsicana. After he arrives in that small East Texas town, Moon sets out to learn what makes a “true Texan.” His quest involves the eternal debate about whether chili with beans is chili, longhorn cattle, the seasonal appropriateness of different cowboy hats, two-stepping, the inordinate number of wild turkeys, cowboy churches, and ordering a soda when every soda is a “Coke.”

Seven Samurai Swept Away in a River is the latest novel (?) from award-winning Korean writer and translator Jung Young Moon. In his trademark stream-of-consciousness style, Moon admirably grapples with himself and the peculiarities and paradoxes of twenty-first-century Texas, while questioning what has meaning and what doesn’t, who gets to decide, and the nature of the novel as a literary form.

This writer doesn’t like rules and is baffled by conformity, gripped by a profound melancholy. “[He’d] reached the point of skepticism where [he] really was not sure if a novelist should create problems and conflicts among fictional characters when the world itself was rife with problems.” Accordingly, the problems and conflicts of Seven Samurai are internal, except for the chili. The melancholy is such that I was startled when Moon visits a farm and notes “a very cute donkey.”

Moon crafts page-long sentences that do not meander; his musing is focused—hats off to translator Yewon Jung. Moon also exhibits a joy in words: he “always wanted to say something good if possible about gooseberries,” simply because the words “goose” and “berry” were conjoined. His repetition of certain words lends a meter to his prose, as if he might be a poet. A particularly moving passage involves an old woman, the proprietor of an antiques storefront in Corsicana, who seems to Moon to be even older than her goods, as if “it would be all right to put your hands together and make a wish while looking at the woman.”

While Moon claims not to feel an interest in much of anything, he seems interested in everything, observing details which inspire mental leaps and connections. In the farmhouse, there was “a wolf skin with the head intact laid out flat on a single bed which looked either like an altar on which a wolf had been offered as a sacrifice, or like an altar exclusively for worshiping wolves.” Moon has a droll, dry wit that reminds me of Steven Wright and had me chuckling aloud. Thinking about thinking, he is astonished by what goes on in other people’s minds: Why did Jack Ruby bring his dogs along on his mission to shoot Oswald?

In the end, Moon gains an appreciation for oak trees and acorns but declines to take a position on the chili controversy. Seven Samurai ends on a hopeful note.
“Perhaps [he] could throw many things into the puddle and see how some things sank and others floated and accept that some things sank … and others floated … and that a mind that couldn’t be put at ease, no matter what, was as necessary as any other kind of mind.”

Monday, November 11, 2019

Monday Roundup: Texas Literary Calendar Nov. 11-17, 2019

Bookish goings-on in Texas for the week of November 11-17, 2019 compiled exclusively for Lone Star Literary Life by Texas Book Lover. 

Jewish Book & Arts Festival, Houston, November 2-13

TCU 2019 Texas Book Award, Fort Worth, November 14

2019 WITS Gala, Houston, November 14

The 2019 Writing Workshop of Austin, November 15

The 2019 Houston Writing Workshop, November 16

The Essential J. Frank Dobie, San Marcos, through December 1

Modernist Networks: The Annette Campbell-White Collection, Austin, August 24-January 5

Yuyi Morales: Soñadora, Abilene, November 14-?

BookPeople, Jane Ko discussing and signing Koko's Guide to Austin (in conversation with Kana LiVolsi), 7PM

Malvern Books, Austin Community College Creative Writing Department’s Literary Coffeehouse, hosted by Charlotte Gullick, featuring Ehigbor Shultz, 7PM

Dallas Museum of Art, Arts & Letters Live presents Tim O'Brien discussing Dad's Maybe Book (in conversation with Ben Fountain), 7:30PM

SMU, guidebook author and TV host Rick Steves presents a slideshow lecture titled "Travel as a Spiritual Act," 7:30PM [ticketed event]

Blue Willow Bookshop, Eoin Colfer reading and signing his new book, The Fowl Twins, 5PM

Congregation Emanu El, The Progressive Forum presents Karen Armstrong discussing her new book, The Lost Art of Scripture: Rescuing the Sacred Texts, 7:30PM

Stude Concert Hall, Inprint's Margarett Root Brown Reading Series presents Elizabeth Gilbert discussing City of Girls, 7:30PM [ticketed event - SOLD OUT]

Texas Tech, TTU Creative Writing Reading Series presents poet Reginald Dwayne Betts, 7:30PM

San Antonio
Front Street Books, Sid Balman reading and signing Seventh Flag, 6PM

Flat Track Coffee, Living Room Lit Open Mic with Chicon Street Poets, 7:15PM

Home Slice Pizza, Austin Bat Cave's Story Department: Cold Turkey, 7:30PM

Hotel Ella, Salon Series: Asher Price discussing and signing Earl Campbell: Yards After Contact, 6PM

Lazarus Brewing Co., LOGOS no. 16 featuring poets Nick Courtright and Kimbol Soques, 7:15PM

Native Hostel, Austin Poetry Slam: Open Slam featuring Radi, 7:15PM

UT - Belo New Media Center, David Wallace-Wells discussing and signing The Uninhabitable Earth, 3:30PM

Avant Garden, Write About Now: Wansgiving Community Potluck & Free Poetry Open Mic, 7:30PM

Brazos Bookstore, An Evening with novelists Hernan Diaz (In the Distance) and Mark Haber (Reinhardt's Garden), 6:30PM

Lone Star College - N. Harris, The Human Library 2019, 9AM

Roka Akor, Laurie Warren discussing and signing Wild World, Joyful Heart: Unlock Your Power to Create Health and Joy, 6:30PM

St. Luke's United Methodist Church, Blue Willow Bookshop presents Stephen Harrigan discussing and signing Big Wonderful Thing: A History of Texas (in conversation with Judge Ken Wise), 7PM
San Antonio
Central Library, Slammin' the Stacks: poetry slam with emcee Andrea “Vocab” Sanderson, 6PM

San Antonio College, Lauren Markham, author of The Faraway Brothers: Two Young Migrants and the Making of an American Life, presents "Migration Stories, Migration Myths," 7PM

The Twig Book Shop, Alyssa Banta discussing and signing The Texas Ranch Sisterhood, 5PM

Brazos Bookstore, Addie Tsai reading and signing Dear Twin, 6:30PM
Friday, November 15:
Austin Book Arts Center, workshop: Book Repair I, 10AM

BookPeople, Leanna Petronella reading and signing The Imaginary Age, 7PM

El Paso
Fahrenheit 180, Lupe Mendez poetry reading at BWOMS Open Mic, 8PM

Brazos Bookstore, ER Bills discussing and signing The San Marcos 10: An Antiwar Protest in Texas, 6:30PM
San Angelo
Angelo State, Jenna Bush Hager and Barbara Pierce Bush discussing Sisters First, 7PM [ticketed event]

San Antonio
The Twig Book Shop, Cliff Etheredge discussing and signing Flying With One Wing, 5PM

Austin Community College - Highland, Writers' League of Texas workshop: "Character Driven and Intricately Plotted Mysteries" with Sherry Thomas, 10AM

B&N - Arboretum, Donovan Boyd signing Clock Maintenance, 2PM

BookPeople, Brenda Marie Smith reading and signing If Darkness Takes Us, 5PM

Carver Branch Library, Austin Poetry Society meeting featuring Sandi Horton, 1:30PM

Half Price Books - Southpark Meadows, Cy Young signing his thriller, Deathload, and his YA novel, Onions, 1PM

Malvern Books, Esteban Rodríguez launches his new poetry collection, Crash Course, with readings from special guest ire’ne lara silva, 7PM
Half Price Books - Clear Lake, Local Author Saturdays: Meet local Indie authors and pick up their latest release, while supplies last

Lawndale Art Center, Brazos Bookstore presents An Evening with Flea and his new memoir, Acid for the Children (in conversation with Jagi Katial), 7PM [ticketed event - SOLD OUT]

Memorial Drive Presbyterian Church, Blue Willow Bookshop presents Jenna Bush Hager and Barbara Pierce Bush in celebration of their first children’s book, Sisters First, 7PM [ticketed event]

Murder By the Book, Tessa Arlen will sign and discuss Poppy Redfern and the Midnight Murders, and Sara Rosett will sign and discuss Murder in Black Tie, 4:30PM

River Oaks Bookstore, William Dylan Powell discussing and signing Secret Houston: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure, 3PM

Writespace, Workshop: "More Than Just Hitting the Books: Researching 101" with Marian Szczepanski, 9:30AM

Writespace, Workshop: "‘The Body Is and Is and Is:’ Poetry of the Body" with Theodora Ziolkowski, 1PM

Patchouli Joe's Books & Indulgences, Ron Franscell discussing his latest book, Alice & Gerald: A Homicidal Love Story, as well as his other true crime books, followed by a book signing, 4PM

B&N - Palms Crossing, Meet the Author: Sylvia Weaver Rivera, and Meet the Author: Ana A. Cavazos, 2PM

B&N - Palms Crossing, Meet the Author: Rob Paulsen, 7:30PM

New Braunfels
The Book Haus, Joseph Brooks discussing and signing The Value of a Single Woman, 11AM

Port Neches
Fleur Fine Books, author Merilyn Howton Marriott Meet & Greet Event, 3PM

Round Rock
Baca Center, SCBWI-Austin: Full Novel Workshop with Cory Putman Oakes, Varsha Bajaj, Nikki Loftin and Jessica Lee Anderson, 8:30AM

San Antonio
Memorial Branch Library, explore spoken word poetry and creative writing with local award-winning writer and performer Andrea "Vocab" Sanderson, 3PM

Tobin Center, author Brian Kilmeade presents "America— Great From the Start," 7PM

The Twig Book Shop, E. M. Johnson signing The Greatest Treasure Ever, 11AM

San Marcos
Half Price Books, Lloyd Rosen signing Resurrection from Depression, 1PM
B&N - Town Square, Randy Clark signing Authority from God, 1PM

B&N - Town Square, Julia Yu signing Sweeter Without Sugar, 4PM

Austin Book Arts Center, workshop: Bookbinding for Artists, 12PM

BookPeople, Walt Gragg reading and signing The Chosen One, 2PM
B&N - NE Mall, The Toll (Arc of a Scythe Series #3) book signing with Neal Shusterman, 5PM

Patchouli Joe's Books & Indulgences, NaNoWriMo Writers' Refuge, 11AM

B&N, Raider Power: Texas Tech's Journey from Unranked to the Final Four book signing with Chris Beard, 12:30PM

B&N - Palms Crossing, Meet the Author: Gail Rollo, 2PM

San Antonio
The Keystone School, The Twig Book Shop presents Brian Kilmeade and Sam Houston and the Alamo Avengers: The Texas Victory That Changed American History, 1PM [ticketed event]

San Marcos
The Wittliff Collections, Steven L. Davis discussing and signing The Essential J. Frank Dobie with special guests Naomi Shihab Nye, John Phillip Santos, William Jack Sibley, Chip Dameron, and Dudley Dobie, Jr., 2PM

Sugar Land
B&N, Robert Jacobus signing Black Man in the Huddle: Stories from the Integration of Texas Football, 2PM