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Top of the schlock By Lynn Sutherland Austin In November something called Writers’ Round-Up will happen in Austin. It is a do put on by Women in Communications, a professional organization with a self-describing title. While organizations of professional women are to be congratulated, their public relations gimmicks may be or may not. Writers’ Round-Up ostensibly is a ceremony at which Texas writers are awarded laurels for their recent literary achievements. From the large pile that has come up this year, three judges are supposed to pick the best. I have had an opportunity to look over all of the books. Presented here are the ones you’ll never hear about during the barrage of publicity articles on the winners. These are my choices for the seven worst books published in Texas this year. 1 Officer Mama, by Martha Schnabel This is the story of Sgt. Martha Schnabel of the San Antonio Police Department as she climbs her way from rookie oop to sergeant. Officer Mama writes, according to the jacket blurb, “with great gusto.” She also does other curious things with great gusto. After a call from an alarmed female who had just been threatened with rape -over the phone, Officer Mama is on the job at a stake-out of the house the wrong house. She does not reveal with great gusto what she does while whiling away the hours waiting for the rapist at the wrong house \(play The reader will grow to love Officer Mama as she moves up the ladder to become an undercover narcotics agent. As the publishers note, “she tells of learning the dope-world’s speech a wholly new vocabulary of dressing as carefully as for a role in Tobacco Road. She even punctured both arms with a hypodermic needle as convincing evidence of her addiction.” That’s damn convincing evidence. “The reader will share her suspense when she passed a written examination for policewoman only to fail the physical examination unless she could gain seven pounds before the week was out. She made the grade!” This and other exciting news about Officer Mama should be stimulating reading for 90 pound weaklings or rapists ideal for 90 pound rapists. The book is as ripe as the book jacket, but as one observer put it, “It doesn’t exactly 22 The Texas Observer recommend the San Antonio Police Department.” 2The Houston Symphony Orchestra, While this book may appeal to an esoteric group namely, Houston Symphony Orchestra freaks its motivation is dubious and its orientation ethnocentric. Mr. Roussel, who is an associate editor of Gargoyle Magazine, writes, “The leading role in this drama belongs to Miss Ima Hogg, founder of the movement. Time and again she has brought the resources to the community to bear on the problems of building and maintaining an orchestra of the highest rank.” This may be true, but when one reads the rave review of the book on the back jacket written by Miss Ima Hogg, one wonders. To wit: “I found this book absorbingly interesting from beginning to end.” Miss Ima Hogg. And in the preface, “Primarily, my thanks go to Miss Ima Hogg . . .” Hubert Roussel. I’ll bet they do. 2 A Bluebird Will Do, by Loula Grace 3 If you were to pick up this book in the library and glance at it, you might get the idea that it had some meat to it. The first line on the jacket tells you, “Nancy Sullivan was only sixteen, but already she’d had adventures to last a lifetime.” \(A child had had all these lifetime adventures, we would have been spared. But no. On a trip from Illinois to San Francisco, Papa never makes it and Nancy and her mother buckle down to make a living serving meals. Mama dies, and Nancy goes on to hunt up Cousin Matilda in New Orleans. She meets fascinating characters like Frank and Jim and mysterious Zeke and natives who mistake her for a witch doctor, and then of course Rex Porter, someone Nancy could count on. I have it from a reliable source that Loula Grace, the author, writes adult novels as well as stories for “young readers,” and that she hasn’t learned to distinguish between the two. I have renamed this book, . A Bluebird Will Do-Do, because that’s what the author did-did. 4 Plum Jelly and Stained Glass and Other Prayers, by Jo Can and I have to admit that Plum Jelly, et al., is one of my favorites of the worst. It ranks far above Loula Grace’s scribblings and Officer Mama’s gusto, because Plum Jelly is Vanilla Sludge. We are told that Jo and Imogene are two homemakers who live in Lubbock. I wouldn’t want to be snobbish and say that dooms it from the outset, but that dooms it from the outset. Jo and Imogene have put together 100 pages of nifty little prayers for Lubbock housewives, and no one else, as far as I can see. They pray about things like artichokes and cicada wings and leaf veins and life styles. The title prayer relates, “Ah Lord. There is lemon-colored paint in my hair and on my knees and up my arms” \(you may think this is getting a little sensually excessive for a prayer, but they draw the ‘permeates the whole house. The bathroom is like new! The old the looks fresh and clean and bright. Even the corners are sparkling.” If the Lord and you relate to fresh tile and sparkling corners, this book is for you. C Insights for Uptights, by Bert Kruger Smith \(American Universal ArtForms It seems Ms. Smith got caught up in pdblishing this year: she has three books up for Writers’ Round-Up. One of them, Aging in America, is a well-researched and timely social treatise, but Insights for Uptights is pop-psychology at its most commercial level. In other words, the author wanted to sell loads of slender paperbacks at $2.95 apiece to teen-agers and parents who are messing each other around. Without saying or examining much at all, that is. The book, like most AM radio stations, is geared toward 10-year-old minds. I prefer to call this hastily put-together collection of banalities No-nos for Nu-nus. z Laughing to Keep from Crying, by 6 By this point you have realized that what you are reading is not bonafide criticism of literary works. That’s not