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Wit’ Fidit .1/ ST F.% E N I . 1,:k1 N . . . . , . v BOOKS & THE CULTURE A Statewide Investigation BY STAYTON BONNER Lone Star Sleuths: An Anthology of Texas Crime Fiction Edited by Bill Cunningham, Steven L. Davis, and Rollo K. Newsom University of Texas Press 304 pages, $25.95 f squinting survivors straggling across the Lone Star state years after some manmade apocalypse wanted to learn about the Texans that came before, they would be fortunate to stumble upon Lone Star Sleuths: An Anthology of Texas Crime Fiction. Far from the cliched, cowboy-and-wildcatter stereotypes of old, the heroes who populate the anthology cover the dark corners of a modern Texas not touted in tourist brochures. Imagine Bob Phillips, the Prozac-perky host of Texas Country Reporter, as a hard-drinking, skirt-chasing collection agent with an impending divorce and a snub-nosed pistol. The anthology features 30 excerpts from Texas’ best mystery novels, grouped into seven geographic sections: El Paso and West Texas; Austin and the Hill Country; Houston and the Gulf Coast; Dallas-Fort Worth and the Panhandle; East Texas; San Antonio and South Texas; and small-town Texas. Each excerpt begins with a brief history of the author and some commentary on the regional relevance. The stories take the reader from the mean streets to the posh districts to the rural outposts as protagonists pursue their culprits. Woven into the mysteries is a compendium of the state’s most controversial issues, providing a crash course on Texas’ current condition. “While a very real affection for Texas exists in these books, the portraits will not always please boosters of the Lone Star State: There’s rampant pollution along the upper Texas coast, wasteful water usage in West Texas, white rac ists in East Texas, gang activity in San Antonio, religious intolerance in small towns,” the editors write. “This is not the stuff of glossy literature. Call it realism. And it’s perfectly suited to crime literature:’ Modern Texas is one of the most ethnically diverse states in the country. Reflecting this fact, the crime fiction protagonists come from a variety of backgrounds and hold a wide array of jobs. “Now a private eye can also be a rock musician, funeral director, game warden, advertising executive, standup comedian, priest, English professor, fashion stylist, football player, herb shop owner, librarian, chef, birdwatcher, salvage boat operator, and lesbian forensic JANUARY 11, 2008 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 23