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->koa z ,1,,,,o k , .:K.-“\\41%N. BOOKS & THE CULTURE Partying with the Mesquite Beats, or. Shut Up and Get in the Hearse BY MARK SMITH CONFESSIONS OF A MADDOG: A Romp Through the High-flying Texas Music and Literary Era of the Fifties to the Seventies. By Jay Dunston Milner. Foreword by Larry L. King. University of North Texas Press. 248 pages. $29.95. Until you adjust to its presence, a living legend can rattle your nerves. You expect too much too soon, for one thing, and probably fear you will stack up poorly. Jay Dunston Milner on Stanley Walker Indeed. One might have a similar sensation when commencing to write about a book by a living legend, the running buddy of Willie Nelson and Jerry Jeff Walker and Bud Shrake and Larry L. King and just about every you-name-it literary or outlaw music notable who passed through Austin in the last four decades. That creeping uneasiness might be even worse when writing about that legend in the pages of The Texas Observer, this august and fabled institution, where the subject himself wrote \(and was briefly Assosixties, sharing its pages with the likes of Billie Lee Brammer and Willie Morris. Yeah, that would put the scare in a body worse than the D.T.s after a weekend of drinking with a bunch of crazed and \(at least celebrities. But you know what they say about fools rushing in. If there is any lesson to be learned in this book, it is that on any given day, rushing fools can seize the high ground from fearful angels. And if one of them is lucky several failed marriages and a triple-bypass operation later he might be able to sit on the front porch, sip iced tea, and pen a genial and chatty memoir. So let’s go. Let’s jump in the hearse, pop a few pills, light up a doober, hide that bottle under the seat, and take off on what is a most enjoyable if forgivably mislabeled ride through the heyday of Texas letters with Jay Dunston Milner, raconteur and . Billy Lee Brammer, around 1966 friend to the stars. It’s a wild ride and one that has not often been recounted, at least in its entirety, with a narrative line and by someone sober. Why mislabeled? Because these are not, in fact, confessions, either of the lurid tabloid sensation or of the spiritual Augustinian genre. “Confessions” imply fresh revelation of the self-incriminating variety, but these anecdotes sparkle with the unmistakable polish of frequent retelling. “Hey, Jay, tell us the one about….” And Maddogs? That self-description is also an overstatement, but maybe just as forgivable. Unless the high jinx of this impressive cast of affable intellectuals were a good deal wilder than what is described here which is unlikely these dogs were about as mad as Huckleberry Hound at a keg party. Especially compared to real literary outlaws of the same epoch, like William S. Burroughs or Hunter S. Thompson. First of all, there just aren’t enough drugs here to provoke serious nastiness. Compared to the sixties’ national freewheeling experimentation with psychedelics and opiates, the Maddogs’ drinking, smattering of diet pills, and occasional joint or tab of acid seem a bit tame. Also, there were no guns to speak of. Real literary outlaws make a big show of their heat, and when the guns come out, real badness can occur such as Burroughs shooting his wife while playing William Tell at a three-day party in Mexico. But this is no criticism. We don’t require incidental corpses to know that we have truly partied. If anything, one is relieved to find that most of the high crimes promised on the jacket of this book turn out instead to be misdemeanors. For despite its title, the real focus of Maddogs is not high times, but literary history: a series of portraits of writers who comprise, if not a school of writing, then at least an effervescence of the arts at a time and place where it might have been least expected to arise. The book is chronologically organized, and Milner begins with a couple of obligatory autobiographical chapters summarizing his early years. These pages are livened briefly by the tale of Grace MAY 28, 1999 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 25 ca.