Back of the Book

Austin theater darlings Rude Mechanicals are at it again with Fixing King John, a modern retelling of King John, one of Shakespeare’s lesser-known plays. Resident Rude Mech playwright Kirk Lynn discusses his touchstones, from Robert Johnson via the White Stripes to the Bard’s love of smut.

IMG_4035-Edit-2What inspired you to start “fixing” some of Shakespeare’s plays?

I was running and I was listening to a White Stripes live album, and they were covering ‘Stop Breaking Down,’ by Robert Johnson, and I started thinking, ‘Would Robert Johnson even recognize this as his music?’ Especially on the live version, not on the album version, the solo is just so aggressive and noisy. I was like, ‘I want to do that.’

The poet Charles Simic said this thing I really feel connected to. He said that writers want to honor the masters of their craft, but they also want to overthrow them and make room for themselves and sort of destroy them.

I thought, ‘I just want to cover something and make it sound like the White Stripes make ‘Stop Breaking Down’ sound: respectful, and clearly in the tradition of blues—and loving the blues—but just annihilating it, too.’

fixingjohnSo how did you go about  fixing King John?

I went online, downloaded the full text as a text file, and every morning before I would start whatever my bigger project was, I would just do a page or so, turning it into contemporary English and adding curse words. I feel like a reason Shakespeare can sort of smuggle himself into high schools and colleges is because we don’t recognize how foul he is. Shakespeare loves smut.

So, that was the first pass. Then, I abandoned any loyalty to the Shakespearean text and just tried to edit it like I would one of my plays: Cut it down to 10 characters so you could do it. King John goes from 22 down to 10 characters. Then, just smooth out the plot. And then there were some other things. I really wanted to push toward more gender parity, so I gave the female characters more lines.

Is a retelling more difficult to write than an original play?

I don’t think so. In some ways it was easier. Like anything, once you get under the hood, you find these beautiful sections where you’re like ‘Oh my God, this is a goldmine here.’

Is there any contemporary political commentary at work in the play?

Yeah. There’s a lot of talk about these guys just going to war at the drop of a hat; they don’t seem to care about it. There’s a French king, Philip, in our play, who keeps saying, ‘Man, I just don’t fight anymore.’ He lets his son do all the fighting. And he has this fairly beautiful speech on why he doesn’t fight anymore. It has to do with the slaughter of innocent kids. In Shakespeare, they talk about, ‘Man, we lost this duke,’ and they list out the nobles, and in our play they mention the fact that they lost countless people that nobody knows their names. So there’s a lot of talk about the cost of war.

I originally was drafting a few years ago as we were feeling like we were going to get to move out of Iraq and Afghanistan. The ways, especially in Iraq, in which we took civilian life, still ongoing with the drone work… how do we want to count these people? For the most part, it seems like we don’t even want to count them or think about them. There’s no character named Obama or George Bush, but there is meditation on ‘What do wars actually cost?’

Is your method of “fixing” Shakespeare any different from updating Shakespeare for a modern audience, which is a fairly common undertaking?

I think it’s different in that, at a certain point, I just abandon any loyalty to the text. I got to work on it at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival with some real Shakespearean actors, which was a real kick, and I think the percentage came out about right. There were probably, out of 15, three or four people who thought it was offensive and not a great idea, and I think that’s kind of the sweet spot that I want to hit: 10-12 people think this is beautiful and three people think it’s kind of… If it’s not offensive to anybody, I would have failed. It takes Shakespeare as the starting place, but abandons it eventually. The farther you get into the play, the less it has to do with Shakespeare.

What’s the future hold for Rude Mechs’ “Fixing Shakespeare” series?

Every two years, the Rude Mechs are going to fix a new one, so we’re asking people what they think is the worst Shakespeare so we can fix that one next. We’re messing around with Timon of Athens, which is a fun play.

Another little feature is that once we produce these plays, they’re going to be given away for free. My greatest desire is that high school kids will find them and love them. It’s fun to do them professionally, but it seems like the people who might really appreciate them are the student that I was when I was 17 or 18. I loved Shakespeare, even at that age, but being forced to talk about it as though it’s purely high culture can take all the fun out of it. I guess even undergrads in college could produce it on their own. There are no rights or royalties attached, so they can do whatever they want with it.

“Fixing King John” runs through Nov. 24 at the Off Center.

Many Rivers to Cross By Thomas Zigal TCU Press 390 pages
Many Rivers to Cross
By Thomas Zigal
TCU Press
390 pages

We may think we exercise some modicum of control over our lives. But when the maelstrom hits, as Hurricane Katrina does in Tom Zigal’s epic Many Rivers to Cross, we realize the order governing our lives is temporary and paper-thin.

The minute Vietnam vet Hodge Grant and Duval, the ne’er-do-well father of Grant’s grandchildren, jump into a homemade boat to attempt to rescue Grant’s daughter and grandchildren as the waters rise in New Orleans, we realize there are no maps to guide them, or us. The fragile center of their lives, and of life in New Orleans, cannot hold as the chaos of Katrina sweeps the known world from its moorings.

Grant’s daughter and her children wait on their roof to be rescued. Grant and Duval evade law enforcement and marauders as they try to find her house in a world without landmarks. A young woman caught in her floating VW screams for help. Grant ties floating bodies to lampposts so they will be found. Drunks party through the night in a Bourbon Street bar above the flood. An old man poles a raft heavy with bodies as if he’s crossing the river Styx. Gangs loot stores and homes and assault victims in boats, huddled in shelters and on rooftops. Is this the beginning of the end of the world?

The only order remaining is that carved by human connections: acts of generosity and kindness or violence and nihilism. Grant’s son takes part in a jailbreak from the Orleans Parish Prison as rising water threatens to drown men in their cells. He breaks into an apartment to escape prison guards patrolling in boats, only to find three hungry young children whose junkie mother has died in the bathroom. Suddenly, he is no longer on his own.

Opportunities for redemption and salvation offer themselves up at every turn. Sometimes they are accepted; sometimes they are shunned. And the waters keep rising.

Tom Zigal has written an important book. But unlike some important books, it’s also a page-turner. Its characters, and readers, cannot find terra firma.

Now based in Austin, Zigal lived in New Orleans for a few years, and the city grew on him. This is the second book of a New Orleans trilogy in progress. The first novel, The White League, was nested inside a white, racist, elite society that clandestinely controlled New Orleans.

Many Rivers to Cross is largely a book about African-Americans living in New Orleans because, as Zigal told his audience at a reading, “Katrina was a uniquely African-American tragedy.” As such, the African-American characters are the norm, and the only characters indentified by race are those who are not African-American—the inverse of the standard American narrative. Zigal is scrupulous about the dialogue, making sure the language is right. It’s a high-wire act by a white writer, and he makes it all the way across.

Zigal launches this novel into a world spinning out of control. Even with some respite at the end, we leave it understanding that the order of our world is fragile and temporary, and the waters will rise again.

As a kid,  journalist/writer Michael Erard was interested in language, but says he could only find dense technical books on the topic. His new project, Schwa Fire, is conceived as the digital magazine about language—”meaty but accessible,” he says—he wishes he’d had access to then.

Schwa Fire targets language geeks, the grammar-obsessed, linguists, poets, spelling enthusiasts, journalists, and anyone who’s curious about the power of language. That’s a growing audience, Erard says, and Schwa Fire‘s digital-only format will aim to provide quality long-form journalism and audio stories for anyone who writes, reads, listens or speaks.

“Language journalism,” Erard says, “is at the point where sports journalism was before Sports Illustrated came along.”

If anyone’s qualified to get a project like this off the ground, it’s Michael Erard. He’s been writing about language for more than a decade, and his work has been featured in The New York Times, Slate, Science, Wired, and The Texas Observer. He’s the author of two nonfiction books—Um. . .  Slips, Stumbles, and Verbal Blunders, and What They Mean; and Babel No More: The Search for the World’s Most Extraordinary Language Learners—about language.

Schwa Fire is estimated to launch in early 2014. You can check out a sample Schwa Fire story, a trailer for the project, and more information on Schwa Fire‘s Kickstarter campaign page.

On Oct. 21, the Observer published an op-ed by San Antonio author Gregg Barrios titled “Dear Texas Book Festival: Where Have All the Latino Authors Gone?” Barrios’ piece generated some heated response in Texas’ community of authors, along with a reply from Texas Book Festival Literary Director Steph Opitz, and both the Los Angeles Times and San Antonio Express-News followed up on the controversy. Today, in furtherance of the important conversation that Barrios’ op-ed has opened, we’re pleased to publish Arizona-based author Monica Brown’s op-ed about her own experience at the Texas Book Festival:

 

Let me tell you a secret. I’ve been to book festivals all across the country, and the Texas Book Festival is my very favorite. It isn’t my favorite because of the 30 minutes I spend in the children’s tent reading to amazing children and their parents over the weekend. It isn’t my favorite because of the mentions I get in Austin’s major news outlets, and it isn’t my favorite because of the publicity I get for my bilingual children’s books, which, along with being a mother and a teacher, are my life’s work. It isn’t my favorite because of the many parties and lunches and fun events organized for authors. It also isn’t my favorite, in case you were wondering, because it’s some sort of free event/trip—publishers no longer provide the funds to authors like me to cover travel, or lodging, and I don’t get paid to participate.

It is my favorite because of the fact that each of the three times I’ve been to the Texas Book Festival, I’ve arrived a day early to participate in one of the most joyful and inspiring pro-literacy programs in the country: The Reading Rock Star Program. The festival brings authors like me into the schools where I can interact with amazing children who are perhaps meeting a published author for the first time. As a Latina writer, I can inspire and touch creative minds with my writing, celebrating literacy in Spanish and English, both languages side by side on the page. I’ve shared my nonfiction picture books honoring Dolores Huerta, Cesar Chavez and Tito Puente, and my fictional characters: Marisol McDonald, who doesn’t “match,” and Chavela, who finds some magic rainforest chicle and takes a ride across mountains, rivers, and oceans.

The festival does not send authors to speak to the children of privilege, rather to the children of hope—all from Title 1 schools. And the event is about more than just one day—it is about the lead-up to the event. Committed teachers and librarians, who I consider literacy activists, build excitement in the students through creative activities, art and writing projects, guiding them to find their own voices and put their dreams into words. At the end of each Reading Rock Star visit, I have the distinct honor of giving each and every child a copy of one my books (on behalf of the Texas Book Festival), signed in advance and ready to be shared with parents, grandparents and siblings. To own an $18 picture book is a luxury the vast majority of children in the world can’t afford, but the Texas Book Festival makes sure thousands of children do, in Austin and the Rio Grande Valley.

This year I flew out to Austin on Oct. 24, my birthday. The next morning I visited hundreds of reading rock stars, who surprised me with beautifully drawn birthday cards. In rainbow letters, one third-grader wrote, “Art is Smart!” and so it is. And if we are smart, we will challenge the folks at the Texas Book Festival to make it even better, something that can only happen when we have the space and place for all our amazing Latino writers and poets of all places and races. But if we are smart, we will also praise and support and sing out loud the amazing work already being done by the Texas Book Festival for our children and all children, 365 days a year.

Dallas 1963 is devoid of conspiracy theories. It’s not a dry, brittle history text. And you won’t find any single person blamed for JFK’s assassination.

Instead, Observer contributor Bill Minutaglio and Wittliff Collections curator Steven L. Davis have resurrected the political climate that suffused Dallas in advance of Kennedy’s fateful visit, showing how businessmen, religious zealots, political leaders and moneyed tycoons all contributed to a complex atmosphere of intolerance and hate.

His experience working with the archives at Texas State University’s Wittliff Collections certainly gave co-author Davis a home-field advantage in researching the project. “Working in the archives means you know what questions to ask to find the right material,” Davis says. For Davis, much of that material lies in unprocessed primary sources—documents that have yet to be categorized and are therefore not open and accessible to the public. As a result, these primary sources have rarely—if ever—been reported on. “Going into the archives, you’re finding things that no one has ever really looked at,” Davis says. “That’s when you start doing something really exciting and groundbreaking.”

Take, for example, the Mink Coat Mob riot, organized by Republican U.S. Congressman Bruce Alger, which occurred in Dallas just days before Kennedy’s 1960 election. That attack on Lady Bird and Lyndon B. Johnson has long been relegated to a footnote in histories of the Kennedy campaign, but Davis says the event has been under-appreciated as a factor in Kennedy’s election. The attack inspired sympathy from, for instance, Richard Russell, a Democratic senator from Georgia who had refused to support Kennedy and Johnson because of their pro-civil rights plank. After the Mink Coat Mob accosted the Johnsons, however, Russell flew to Texas and stumped for the ticket, helping to bring “reluctant segregationist-minded voters back into the Democratic column,” according to Davis.

Further research into this overlooked event led Davis and Minutaglio to the Nixon presidential papers and recordings housed in California’s Nixon Presidential Library. One recording documents a frustrated Richard Nixon telling a staff member, “Well, we lost Texas in 1960 because of that asshole congressman [Alger] in Dallas.” Davis says the recording makes it clear that Nixon blamed Alger and the Mink Coat Mob incident for his loss, as he’d previously been leading the Texas polls.

“When you find something like this in the archives,” Davis says, “it puts a new light on this historical incident and proves our assertion of how consequential this event turned out to be.”

Minutaglio and Davis bring such historical nuance to light throughout Dallas 1963. The duo will be at Houston’s Brazos Bookstore on Nov. 11 at 7 p.m. and at Austin’s BookPeople on Nov. 14 at 7 p.m. to discuss their collaboration. For an excerpt of Dallas 1963, see the November issue of The Texas Observer. 

jennifer_duboisPair the talent implied by acceptance into and completion of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop with the affirmation of a National Book Foundation 5 Under 35 Award for 2012 and you get Jennifer duBois. DuBois, who teaches in the MFA program at Texas State University-San Marcos, secured her rising stardom last year with the publication of her first novel, A Partial History of Lost Causes.

Her follow-up, Cartwheel, published last month, has been making waves and earning duBois some well-deserved respect. The New York Times called the novel “a pleasure,” describing duBois’ writing as “electric, fine-tuned, intelligent” and “conflicted”—the latter characteristic applied to duBois’ realistic portrayal of the paradox-laden psyche of a modern American citizen displaced in a foreign country.

The novel chronicles the lives of Middlebury College student Lily Hayes and her family during Lily’s indictment and trial for the murder of her roommate while studying abroad in Argentina.

DuBois’ skill at crafting situation and circumstance delivers deep insight into each character’s internal experience, turning a story that runs the risk of derivative rehashing (duBois has said the tale was inspired by the real-life Amanda Knox debacle) into a memorable novel that blends engaging plot twists with smart social commentary.

DuBois will speak and sign Cartwheel at Austin’s BookPeople Nov. 4 at 7:00 p.m.

[Also see the Observer's TBF End of the World Itinerary, Debut Author Itinerary, Foodie Itinerary, Borderlands Itinerary, Enviro Itinerary, and Whodunit Itinerary.]

Texas is no stranger to presidential politics. We sent LBJ and two Bushes to the White House, with decidely mixed results, and we rightly remain traumatized about the state’s role in taking JFK out. And then there’s Rick Perry’s apparently undiminished (and is “quixotic” too noble a word?) ambition for presidential power, and the tantalizing prospect that would-be usurper Ted Cruz might out-crazy Perry on his far-right flank.

So it’s little surprise that this weekend’s Texas Book Festival — which after all was founded by pre-first lady Laura Bush — will feature a raft of books and authors addressing themselves to the highest office in the land.

SATURDAY, OCT. 26

JonathanAlterThePromisecoverartBegin your political journey with Jonathan Alter and Dan Balz at 10 a.m. in the House Chamber. Alter, bestselling author of The Promise, chronicle’s Barack Obama’s path to reelection in his new The Center Holds: Obama and His Enemies. Balz’s Collision 2012: Obama vs. Romney and the Future of Elections in America offers both a well-researched account of the election and a predictive analysis of the future of American politics.

thistownNext head on over to the CSPAN-2/Book TV Tent for an 11 a.m. discussion with Mark Leibovich, author of This Town and chief national correspondent for The New York Times Magazine. This Town examines the “media industrial complex” of the ruling class and offers accounts and analyses of Washington’s transformative effect on the politicians who get sucked in. Moderated by journalist and G.W. Bush biographer Robert Draper.

DALLAS1963(HC)Good news: You don’t have to move an inch to catch the next panel, which begins at noon and features Steven L. Davis and our own Bill Minutaglio. Davis, curator at the Witliff Collections at Texas State University-San Marcos, and Minutaglio, journalism professor at UT-Austin, will discuss the upcoming 50th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination. Their book, Dallas 1963, explores the Big D political forces aligned in opposition to the Kennedy presidency leading up to the assassination, and offers an interesting take on the reasons many Americans still blame the city for JFK’s death.

witnessDon’t give up that seat yet! The 1 p.m. CSPAN-2/Book TV Tent panel features another JFK discussion, this one between Hugh Aynesworth, Allen Childs and Howard Willens. Aynesworth, an investigative reporter who witnessed the assassination, examines the events in his book November 22, 1963: Witness to History. Childs, author of We Were There: Revelations from the Dallas Doctors Who Attended to JFK on November 22, 1963, will offer a medical perspective on the assassination. Finally, Willens, who worked on the Warren Commission Report, will discuss his book, History Will Prove Us Right.

Now go get something to eat.

WILSONReturn to the CSPAN-2/Book TV Tent for a 3:45 p.m. panel featuring A. Scott Berg, author of Wilson, a detailed biography of Woodrow Wilson.  Berg will talk about Wilson’s journey to the White House and his fight to create the League of Nations.

SUNDAY, OCT. 27

At noon, head back over to the CSPAN-2/Book TV tent for a panel on President Obama featuring Richard Wolffe and Dan Balz. Wolffe, a political correspondent for MSNBC who covered the entirety of Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, examines the marketing genius behind both  Obama victories in The Message: The Reselling of President Obama. Balz will again discuss Collision 2012: Obama vs. Romney and the Future of Elections in America.

[Also see the Observer's Debut Author Itinerary, Foodie Itinerary, Borderlands Itinerary, Enviro Itinerary, and Whodunit Itinerary.]

It’s the end of the world as we know it, and that’s just fine with the pack of authors peddling dystopian lit at this year’s Texas Book Festival. If you like your fiction post-apocalyptic, these are the events to hunker down with.

SATURDAY, OCT. 26

Dog-Stars-Book-CoverStart your dystopian Saturday off right with a worldwide flu epidemic. At 11:45 a.m. in Capitol Auditorium Room E1.004, Peter Heller will discuss his debut novel, The Dog Stars, in which an epidemic survivor and his dog leave their homeland in search of a better life. Heller is joined by Ayana Mathis, who will talk about her own debut, The Twelve Tribes of Hattie.

Grab another dose of dystopia with YA authors Neal Shusterman and Heather Terrell at 3:30 p.m. in the Family Life Center at 1300 Lavaca St. Shusterman’s UnSouled, the third book in his “Unwind Dystology” series, chronicles the lives of Connor, Lev and Cam, three engineered humans attempting to bring down an oppressive society. In Terrell’s novel, Relic, protagonist Eva, devastated by the recent death of her brother, turns to relic-collecting in the ruins of a once-great civilization.

AliensHead straight to Capitol Extension Room E2.014 at 4:15 p.m. for the “Apocalypse Now” panel with Alexandra Coutts, Matt de la Pena, and Brian Yansky. In Coutts’ thriller, Tumble & Fall, three island-dwelling teens have to figure out how to spend the rest of their short lives with a massive asteroid scheduled to hit Earth in a week. In de la Pena’s The Living, a novel hailed as “a harrowing, exhilarating ride” by Kirkus Reviews, an earthquake rocks the planet and traps a cruise ship at sea, forcing the passengers to fight for their lives. In Yansky’s comic Homicidal Aliens and Other Disappointments, Jesse, a human with the power to vanquish the aliens that have all but eradicated humanity, must decide whether to grow into his potential as the Chosen One or let his fellow earthlings perish.

SUNDAY, OCT. 27

Lighthouse-Island-by-Paulette-Jiles-198x300Starting off the day at 11 a.m. in Capitol Extension Room E2.026, Paulette Jiles will discuss her new novel, Lighthouse Island, at the “Island Utopias” panel. Jiles spins the tale of young orphan Nadia Stepan’s journey to the Pacific Northwest with James Orotov, a mapmaker, in a world of critical water shortages, overcrowded cities and  unprecedented destruction of nature. Jiles will be joined by Robert Antoni, author of As Flies to Whatless Boys.

Competing in the 11 a.m. time slot is the “Idols” panel, with Manil Suri and Shawn Vestal, in Capitol Extension Room E2.030. Suri is the author of Devi, a novel about Mumbai on the brink of nuclear annihilation. Vestal’s latest is Godforsaken Idaho, a story collection.

Entangled newNext, head to the Lone Star Tent at 12:15 p.m. for a panel of three fiction writers, “Move Over Katniss: New Heroines,” featuring end-of-the-world enthusiast Amy Rose Capetta. Capetta will discuss her recent novel, Entangled, which chronicles the life of Cade, a girl from the future connected at a subatomic level with Xan, whom she must find to save the universe. Joining Capetta are Austinite Tracy Deebs (Doomed) and Aprilynne Pike (Earthbound).

[Also check out the Observer's Borderlands Itinerary, Enviro Itinerary, Debut Author Itinerary, and Foodie Itinerary.]

It’s no mystery that readers love whodunits, and this year’s Texas Book Festival has a variety of events to showcase the mystery and crime genres. If you love blood, crime scenes, shady characters and yellow police tape, be sure to see these authors.

SATURDAY, OCT. 26

MaynardAt 10 a.m., Joyce Maynard will discuss her new novel, After Her, in Capitol Extension Room E2.012. After her father fails to crack the case of the “Sunset Strangler”—a serial killer who leaves the bodies of his female victims on a mountain in Northern California—protagonist Rachel uses herself as bait in an attempt to catch the killer, but instead ruins her father’s career and changes the lives of everyone around her. Thirty years later, Rachel tries again to catch the Strangler, but ends up discovering a transformative family secret.

Barnes & Noble’s “Discover Great New Writers” presentation, in the Lone Star Tent at 10 a.m., features Justin St. Germain, whose latest is a memoir titled Son of a Gun. When his mother is murdered by her fifth husband when Justin is 21, his life is split into Before and After. Years later, unanswered questions about his mother’s life and the horrific crime take St. Germain back to confront the people of his past.

thicket - joe lansdaleAt 1 p.m., join Kathleen Kent and Joe R. Lansdale in Capitol Extension Room E2.012 for a panel titled “Wild Wild West.” Kent’s latest novel, The Outcasts (see the Observer‘s review here), combines the suspense of a classic murder mystery with the enduring romance of a love story. After escaping the Texas Gulf Coast brothel where she’d been imprisoned, Lucinda Carter embarks on a journey to Middle Bayou to meet her lover. Meanwhile, Nate Cannon, a young Texas policeman, hunts for a ruthless killer named McGill. The Outcasts is a portrait of a woman determined to make a new life for herself. Lansdale recently published The Thicket, a potboiler in which protagonist Jack enlists a ragtag band of bounty hunters to chase the bandits who killed his grandfather and kidnapped his sister.

The_Double_by_George_PelecanosAt 1:30 p.m., make your way to The Sanctuary at First United Methodist Church (1201 Lavaca, enter from Lavaca St.) for “Mediums: Stories in Print and in Picture.” This panel features Jeff Lindsay, whose character Dexter Morgan now has a life of his own on Showtime’s hit series Dexter. In Lindsay’s latest novel featuring the vigilante killer, actor Robert Chase becomes fixated on Dexter while researching a role. Joining Lindsay will be George Pelecanos, who’s been called America’s greatest living crime writer. In his new book, The Double, a woman turns to detective Spero Lucas to help her recover a painting stolen by her ex-boyfriend. After landing the case, Lucas has to decide how far he’s willing to go to get what he wants—and what kind of man he wants to be.

At 1:45 p.m., join Justin St. Germain and David Berg for “Violence in the Family” in Capitol Extension Room E2.030. Both authors will be discussing their memoirs, both of which focus on brutal murders within their families.

pollackAt “On the Fringe,” which takes place at 2:30 p.m. in Capitol Extension Room E2.030, hear Neal Pollack discuss Open Your Heart, his second Matt Bolster detective novel. After solving the mystery of guru Ajoy Chatterjee’s untimely demise, Bolster begins to see growing attendance in his Los Angeles yoga classes. In this satire of “sex-drenched yoga culture,” Pollack explores the intersection of loving enlightenment and the darker side of human nature.

At 2:45 p.m., join the discussion in Capitol Extension Room E2.028 with “Texas Mystery Writers,” featuring George Wier and Julia Heaberlin. Wier, an East Texas native currently living and writing in Austin, will discuss his latest novel, Long Fall from Heaven, in which a pair of former cops sets out to solve a string of grisly murders in Galveston—a locale whose ins and outs Wier knows like few others. Heaberlin’s latest is Lie Still, a suspense novel built around a stalking case in fictional Clairmont, Texas.

SUNDAY, OCT. 27

Start your day at 11:45 a.m. in Capitol Extension Room E2.016 with Anne Hillerman, who continues her late father Tony’s Leaphorn and Chee mystery series with Spider Woman’s Daughter, in which a skillful detective in Navajo country digs up new details on a cold case.

snicketYoung readers will be lining up to see Lemony Snicket at 12:15 p.m. in the Capitol’s House Chamber, where the mysterious author will discuss his latest “All the Wrong Questions” book, When Did You See Her Last? In this new offering, apprentice Lemony Snicket must solve the case of the missing Cleo Knight, but with an incompetent mentor and a neverending web of mystery, can Snicket find the girl? Or is that, once again, the wrong question?

Join Jean-Christophe Valtat in Capitol Extension Room E2.030 for “The Known Unknown” at 1:30 p.m. Valtat’s latest novel is Luminous Chaos: A Novel, the second book in the author’s steampunk adventure series The Mysteries of New Venice, hailed by The Guardian as a “magnificent achievement.” Luminous Chaos tells the story of Lillian Lake and Gabriel D’Allier’s brief travel through time, from 1907 New Venice to 1895 Paris. After arriving in the past, the duo is thrust into an exciting murder-mystery adventure steeped in anarchism and Parisian history.

utopia-texas-2Cap the day with “Border Fiction” at 3 p.m. in Capitol Extension Room E2.012, featuring Adam Mansbach and Michael Glasscock. In Glasscock’s Utopia, Texas, grumpy husband and game warden Monty Kilpatrick finds himself in a war with drug lord Juan Diaz in his quiet South Texas town. Mansbach’s latest is The Dead Run, in which young girls start disappearing and bodies begin to surface on either side of the Mexican-American border. Meanwhile, an American who finds himself in a Mexican prison must deliver a box to a cult leader … a box containing the beating heart of a virgin.

[See also the Observer's Enviro Itinerary, Debut Author Itinerary, and Foodie Itinerary]

From Town Lake’s Trail of Tejano Legends to the taco trucks on every street corner to the population’s rapidly changing demographics, it’s easy to see Mexico’s profound influence on Austin—and Texas—identity. As Gregg Barrios recently pointed out, Latino and Latina authors and subjects are underrepresented at this year’s Texas Book Festival, but they’re not absent. Anyone interested in goings-on south of the border should check out these events.

SATURDAY, OCT. 26

Saturday morning at 10 a.m. in the Cooking Tent, meet Austin Breakfast Tacos authors Mando Rayo and Jarad Neece, two food journalists with big appetites and bigger opinions on taco culture in Texas.

At 11:30 a.m. in the Family Life Center (1300 Lavaca), Karen Harrington and Diana Lopez will take part in a panel titled “On the Verge of Crazy.” Lopez weaves Mexican holidays, Spanish proverbs and the complexity of a bicultural upbringing into her debut for children, Confetti Girl.

Pancho-Rabbit-and-the-Coyote-A-Migrant’s-Tale-MainPhotoAt 2 p.m. in the Children’s Read Me a Story Tent (13th & Colorado), join Duncan Tonatiuh for his latest children’s book, Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote: A Migrant’s Tale. This allegorical picture book broaches the complicated topic of immigration for young readers with folk-art illustrations and pointed cultural references (“coyotes,” of course, smuggle migrants across the border for pay, scrupulously and otherwise).

Afterwards, unless you’re a child, you might want to visit Lucinda Hutson at 3 p.m. in Capitol Extension Room E2.016 for “Viva Tequila!”  and a spirited discussion about agave, ummm, spirits.

At 4:15 p.m. in Capitol Extension Room E2.016, Mexican-cooking eminence Diana Kennedy presents the new reissue of her 1998 classic, My Mexico: A Culinary Odyssey with Recipes.

SUNDAY, OCT. 27

loteriaOn Sunday at 1:30 p.m., in Capitol Extension Room E2.030, explore “The Known Unknown” with Mario Alberto Zambrano, who will talk about his novel, Loteria, an intimate look at Mexican-American life through anecdotes inspired by Mexican-bingo cards.

If you’ve got a young reader in tow, go to “Scavenger Hunt” at 1:30 p.m. in Capitol Extension Room E2.010, which features Jude Watson and Xavier Garza. Garza’s latest book for young readers is Maximilian & the Mystery of the Guardian Angel, in which 11-year-old wrestling aficionado Maximilian discovers a connection to El Angel, the world’s greatest masked wrestler, turning his summer into an action-packed dream come true. The comic-style illustrations make this bilingual middle-grade novel a spunky tribute to Mexican lucha libre culture.

DonnaAt 2 p.m. at The Contemporary Austin—Jones Center (700 Congress), explore “Unsettled/Desasosiego” with University of Texas photojournalist Donna DeCesare, who will present her new book, Children in a World of Gangs/Los niños en un mundo de las pandillas.

Finally, at 4:15 p.m., head over to the “Border Politics” panel in the C-SPAN2/Book TV Tent, featuring Ricardo Ainslie and Alfredo the-fight-to-save-juarezCorchado. In The Fight to Save Juarez: Life in the Heart of Mexico’s Drug War (read the Observer‘s review here), UT professor Ainslie explores Juarez, ground zero for Mexico’s drug war, from four different perspectives: Mayor Jose Reyes Ferriz, a cartel member’s mistress, a photojournalist, and a human-rights activist. Dallas Morning News Mexico City Bureau Chief Corchado has spent decades in Mexico, writing and reporting with a special interest in the billion-dollar drug industry. Fast-paced and suffused with reporterial flair, Ainslie’s Midnight in Mexico: A Reporter’s Journey Through a Country’s Descent into Darkness (see the Observer‘s review here) provides shocking insights into a country’s violent decline, and one man’s dedication to finding and telling the truth.

 

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