Coleen Grissom’s memoir, A Novel Approach to Life, is an uplifting, humorous, and delightful glimpse of one of Kendall County’s most interesting residents. Her collection of speeches reveals her passion for life, her devotion to Trinity University, her unbridled enthusiasm for teaching English, and her faith in “humankind.” As dean of students, Vice President for Student Affairs, and English professor at Trinity University for over fifty years, Grissom witnessed the birth of the feminist movement, dealt with campus social upheaval, and adroitly handled the special challenges of each decade with aplomb and vigor. Grissom has enjoyed the company of some of the great writers of our time – Margaret Atwood, John Updike, John Irving, Toni Morison and others too numerous to mention. She has shared in the joys and successes of her students and has endured heartache along the way, as well. Grissom’s book is available through most book stores.
My pick in the cookbook category this year, especially for friends who like to cook and travel in the Hill Country, is Terry Thompson-Anderson’s The Texas Hill Country: A Food and Wine Lover’s Paradise. Thompson-Anderson chose some of the most interesting “foodie” destinations and included information about the locale as well as recipes. The book’s photography is spectacular. Copies can be acquired through most bookstores and the publisher’s web site http://www.shearerpub.com/.
New Braunfels writer Diane Fanning was busy this year with her psycho-thriller The Trophy Exchange and her true crime book The Pastor’s Wife.
In The Trophy Exchange, investigator Lieutenant Lucinda Pierce must overcome not only emotional scars of her childhood but severe facial disfigurement from a shotgun blast. Pierce has allowed her work to overcome her life, blurring the distinctions between private and public. When two innocent little girls, Ruby and Charley, discover their mother’s brutally bludgeoned body in the basement of their home, Pierce finds herself drawn into the middle of a chilling investigation of a series of serial murders with the childrens’ own father as the prime suspect. The Trophy Exchange is a fast moving, knuckle-biting thriller, perfect for curling up with on a cold winter night.
Fanning’s true crime account of Pastor Matthew Winkler’s murder at the hands of his wife Mary in The Pastor’s Wife is a shocking chronicle of a family divided by violence and tragedy. Within a seemingly “perfect” marriage grew a kernel of domestic violence fueled by deceit, misplaced values, and duplicity. With great skill Fanning guides the reader through the bizarre destructive events of a dysfunctional family culminating with Mary Winkler’s murder trial.
Fanning’s books are available through national and independent booksellers. For more information about this prolific author check out her website at http://www.dianefanning.com./m./
On a humorous note, Ben Rehder’s Holy Moly, his sixth Blanco County mystery, takes on prosperity theology with a vengeance. His confluence of motley characters in this comedy of errors manages to disassemble an entire Dallas mega-church, strewing chunks of theological waste, murder, and mayhem in its wake. Rehder’s characters are always memorable, as are his satirical plots. His Hiasenesque style is entertaining and fun to read. Rehder’s books are widely available through major booksellers and his website http://www.benrehder.com./
Another memorable novel this year is A Tale Out of Luck, collaboratively written by Mike Blakely and Willie Nelson. Nelson and Blakely deliver an action-packed who-done-it that provides far more substance than the average western novel. Added to the mix of intrigue and suspense, the enduring qualities of the characters make this book a good read. Blakely and Nelson are currently busy adapting their novel to the big screen. The book is widely available through booksellers and through Blakely’s web site http://mikeblakely.com/
Rounding out fiction for the year is Jo-Ann Power’s political romance, Baring Arms: A Me and Mr. Jones Mystery. Touted by Janet Evanovich with “My vote for the fastest, funniest and sexiest mystery series ever to hit Washington, D.C.,” Baring Arms is a delightful mix of Washing politics, murder, chick-lit, and romance. Power previously worked as a lobbyist in Washington D.C. and is the author of seventeen novels. Power’s books are available in most bookstores. Check out her web site at http://www.jo-annpower.com/
In the non-fiction category, Candice DuCoin chronicles the lives of her ancestors, the Jones family, in her book Lawmen on the Texas Frontier: Rangers and Sheriffs. In her epic account, there are numerous references to the lure of the Texas Hill Country followed by hardship and strife. DuCoin’s epic saga of her Texian ancestors is meticulously researched. She includes end notes with each chapter as well as several appendices of the Jones’ lineage, letters, and other interesting additions. She also provides a full bibliography and index. Her academic approach does not detract from the general readability of the book and the inclusion of photographs and old documents greatly enhance the enjoyment of the story. Ducoin’s book is available through Riata Publishing at http://www.riatabooks.com/
Laurie Jasinski’s Dinosaur Highway: A History of Dinosaur Valley State Park captures her readers’ imaginations with her descriptions of Texas dinosaurs that existed 144 to 65 million years ago. Dinosaur Valley State Park is situated on both sides of the Paluxy River in Somervell County, just four miles west of Glen Rose, Texas where dinosaur tracks are abundant and visible on the river bottom. The Glen Rose tracks probably belong to Acrocanthosaurus, a large intimidating carnivorous creature that left footprints up to two feet long. Four-legged herbivore sauropods co-existed with the Acrocanthosaurus and were given the name Paluxysaurus in 2007 after the Paluxy River where its tracks are found. As of this year, Dinosaur Valley State Park encompasses a total of 1,588 acres. It boasts two hundred thousand visitors annually and ranks among the top ten of the most-visited parks in the Texas State Parks System. Camp sites are available with forty-six water and electrical sites and forty picnic areas. Dinosaur Highway is available through major book sellers and the TCU Press at http://www.tamu.edu/upress/TCU/tcugen.html.
For Kendall County history buffs, Tommy Titsworth’s Early Comfort, Texas Cabinet Makers: A History of Hill Country Furniture provides a wealth of historical information about the early cabinetmakers in Comfort. He spent five years photographing these hand crafted pieces of furniture in homes of Comfort residents and has included 154 color photos in his book, from large armoires, tables of every description, chairs, cradles, desks, and the even the tools used by these early craftsmen. The book is organized by artisan and includes photos of furniture made by Edward Steves, Emil Serger, The Brinkmans, Christian Lindemann, Andres Voigt, Charles De Ney’s, Max Lange, Paul Dryden, Paul Karger, Herman Wille, and William Wiedenfeld. Titsworth also included some of the pieces that he has created from old long-leaf pine. You can obtain a copy of Early Comfort, Texas Cabinet Makers: A History of Hill Country Furniture, by emailing Titsworth at mailto:email@example.com.
No matter what happens in our economy, no matter which electronic book-reading gadgets flood the market, books are irreplaceable. Roy Blount, President of the Authors’ Guild, said it best in his holiday message.
“I've been talking to booksellers lately who report that times are hard. And local booksellers aren't known for vast reserves of capital, so a serious dip in sales can be devastating. Booksellers don't lose enough money, however, to receive congressional attention. A government bailout isn't in the cards. We don't want bookstores to die. Authors need them, and so do neighborhoods. So let's mount a book-buying splurge. Get your friends together, go to your local bookstore and have a book-buying party. Clear out the mysteries, wrap up the histories, beam up the science fiction! Round up the westerns, go crazy for self-help, say yes to the university press books! Get a load of those coffee-table books, fatten up on slim volumes of verse, and take a chance on romance!
There will be birthdays in the next twelve months; books keep well; they're easy to wrap: buy those books now. Buy replacements for any books looking raggedy on your shelves. Stockpile children's books as gifts for friends who look like they may eventually give birth. Hold off on the flat-screen TV and the GPS (they'll be cheaper after Christmas) and buy many, many books. Then tell the grateful booksellers, who by this time will be hanging onto your legs begging you to stay and live with their cat in the stockroom: Got to move on, folks. Got some books to write now. You see...we're the Authors Guild."