The usual cast of characters

I borrowed Literary Austin (edited by Don Graham) expecting to dip into the interesting parts and skip the rest but I read it all. Even though there are over 450 pages, there’s plenty of white space in this sturdily bound and heavy book. Chronologically ordered, this collection devotes the expected amount of space or perhaps even more to the usual: O. Henry, The Bedichek-Dobie-Webb triumvirate, Billy Lee Brammer and company, and the TexMo people, but there are a few surprises, and these are what make this book worth reading. It’s carelessly edited (Governor “Clemens,” “Hayes” County, every possible variation on Scholz Garten, and more), and it’s generally a collection of light journalism and light-hearted gossip. I was interested to learn that, at least at one time, the Austin parks department was keeping the head of Stephen F. Austin in storage. Stephen F. Austin’s feet remained in place long after the rest of the statue depicting him disappeared, there at the little triangle favored as a lounging spot by those with no better way to pass their time, just off South Congress by the county precinct offices. I loved Robert Draper’s brief account of working for Jeff Nightbyrd of Austin Sun and powdered-urine fame. A great feature of this book is the brief annotated bibliography of works not excerpted in the compilation. Of course, it includes brief descriptions of some of the works of Shelby Hearon and Sarah Bird, but it also gathers in one place information about quite a number of the many mysteries set in Austin. This book is already at some library branches and is on order at others.

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