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By Glenn Dromgoole
           If you missed the terrific one-man play Amon! The Ultimate Texan at the Paramount Theatre on Feb. 22 – or if you saw it and would like to read more about Amon G. Carter – playwright Dave Lieber has also published a book of vignettes and photos about the colorful Fort Worth/West Texas newspaper publisher, promoter and philanthropist.
           The book, based on the play instead of the other way around, is $24.95 and we have autographed copies at Texas Star Trading. It’s a very entertaining read.
           Carter died in 1955 but his legend, influence and generosity live on through his foundation and the Amon Carter Museum of American Art in Fort Worth as well as other prominent institutions and landmarks. He was truly “Mr. Fort Worth,” and his lasting impact on West Texas was profound as well.
       New Elmer Kelton release: Beloved San Angelo western author Elmer Kelton died in 2009, but his publisher continues to reissue his novels in paperback editions. The latest two-in-one edition includes Sons of Texas and The Raiders. Two western novels for the price of one, $9.99
           These books serve two purposes: To introduce a new generation of readers to the wonderful novels of Elmer Kelton, a seven-time Spur Award winner, and to offer the legions of Kelton fans an opportunity to reread some of their favorites. Kelton’s stories are always worth a second (or third) read. They’re that good.sons of texas.the raiders
 turning the pages of texBy Glenn Dromgoole

Lonn Taylor, who lived in Fort Davis and wrote a very literate weekly column for the Marfa newspaper, died last summer, just a few months after his most recent book was published — “Turning the Pages of Texas” ($22.95), one of the best books ever written about Texas books.

           The book is a collection of columns he wrote about Texas books, authors, photographers, cookbooks, and book festivals – basically anything having to do with Texas literature. He wrote about books you might have read – like A.C. Greene’s “A Personal Country” – and many you probably haven’t heard of, covering a wide spectrum of topics and genres. He also included essays on such things as browsing in used bookstores and libraries, collecting cookbooks, and attending a book festival.
           There are 64 pieces in all, each one about three and a half to four pages long. You can pick it up and randomly turn to an essay and spend 10 minutes or so enjoying Taylor’s fine prose and his knowledge of Texas history and literature.
           In fact, while writing this column, I did just that. I opened it randomly to a piece he wrote about the book “My First Thirty Years” by Gertrude Beasley, a teacher and writer who grew up in Coleman and Abilene, attended Simmons College, wrote her controversial book that was published in Paris and was banned in England, and then mysteriously disappeared. Taylor tells how Alice Specht, the longtime Hardin-Simmons library director (now retired), finally discovered the truth: Beasley was committed to a New York mental institution in 1928 and died there from cancer in 1955.
           Bill Wright and Marcia Hatfield Daudistel included an excellent profile of Lonn and Dedie Taylor in their book, “Authentic Texas: People of the Big Bend.” I never had the pleasure of meeting Lonn, but I have enjoyed reading his erudite essays.
There’s another book about Texas books that I modestly recommend: “101 Essential Texas Books,” which I co-authored with Carlton Stowers a few years ago. Each of the 101 books we recommend is covered in a brief one-page article, with notes about other similar books. In addition to the 101, we mention another 250 titles worth considering.
           What we tried to do was offer a list of 101 Texas books, still in print (or at least were in print when we wrote our book), that provide a balanced representation of Texas history, culture, and literature. Obviously, I’m biased, but I think it ought to be in every library in Texas.
 You can get it at Texas Star for just $10. Click here
“There Was an Old Dragon” now a children’s board book; book signing planned
by Glenn Dromgoole
      Best-selling Abilene author Penny Parker Klostermann’s delightful children’s book, There Was an Old Dragon Who Swallowed a Knight, first published in 2015, is coming out in a board book edition (Random House, $8.99).
           The book’s national launch is Tuesday, Feb. 11, and Penny will celebrate by signing books that day at Texas Star Trading Company from 4-5:30 p.m.
           Even though it’s a board book, it’s not a condensed version of the story, which features an old dragon who goes around devouring everything in his path – a steed, a squire, a cook, a lady, even a castle and a moat, until finally he starts to bloat. And then what?
           There Was an Old Dragon Who Swallowed a Knight was a Texas Star best-seller in 2015 and 2016. We know of two very grand children who love the tale and can even recite part of it. The more durable board book (also featuring Ben Mantle’s wonderful illustrations) should give the story renewed life, especially with younger kids. Board books make good baby shower gifts.
           If you would like a personalized/autographed copy and can’t make it to the book signing, call us at (325) 672-9696 and we’ll save however many you want. You can also order online and we can send the book to you after the book signing.
           Penny also is the author of another wonderful children’s book, A Cooked-Up Fairy Tale, published (with illustrator Mantle) by Random House in 2017.

Texas Star is closed today (Wednesday, Feb. 5) due to inclement weather. The roads are covered with a layer of ice, topped with several inches of snow. We expect to re-open Thursday, although it might be a bit later in the day than normal. Safe travels!


Book Notes by Glenn Dromgoole abilene in song book and cd

‘Abilene Forever’ one of many songs about Abilene

            The other day I was having lunch with a group of ladies after speaking to their club, and one of the women at our table said her grandmother or great-grandmother used to sing a song she learned in elementary school here.

            The song was “Abilene Forever” and it was written and taught – mandated – to the children by “Professor” J.C. Watts, who taught in Abilene from 1909-1917. The woman knew the song by heart because it had been passed down to her from three or four generations.

            But, she said, she’s never seen it in any history or book about Abilene.

            “Actually,” I said, “Joe Specht wrote about it in his book ‘Abilene in Song: The Women There Don’t Treat You Mean,’” published in 2017.

It wasn’t in the first volume he wrote, called “The Women There Don’t Treat You Mean: Abilene in Song” (2006). He learned about Professor Watts after the first book was published, so when he asked Texas Star to publish a revised edition, that was one of several dozen new entries.

The song starts like this:

“Abilene forever, Abilene forever,

“Beautiful city with prairie dog holes”

It goes on to discuss Indian heads, butter cups and china blooms.

Obviously, it made a lasting impression on his students. And you can read about that song, and the many other songs that are about Abilene or mention Abilene, in Joe’s book, which also includes a CD by Abilene pharmacist/songwriter Greg Young of five of the songs.

“Abilene Forever” is not on the CD, but if you would like to hear it, you might ask Jan Woodward to sing it to you.

The book and CD were $20, but now you can get the set for just $12, autographed by Joe and Greg, exclusively at Texas Star Trading.


Texas murder case inspired Grisham novel

 By Glenn Dromgoole

            John Grisham says the plot for his new best-selling novel “The Guardians” (Doubleday, $29.95 hardcover) is based on a Texas murder case.

“Thirty years ago,” Grisham writes in an author’s note at the end of the book, “Joe Bryan was wrongly convicted of murdering his wife, a horrible crime that occurred at night while Joe was sleeping in his hotel room two hours away. The investigation was botched from the beginning. The real killer was never identified, but strong evidence points to a former policeman who committed suicide in 1996.

“Joe should have been exonerated and freed years ago, but it hasn’t happened. His case languishes before the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. He’s seventy-nine years old and his health is failing. On April 4, 2019, he was denied parole for the seventh time.”

Grisham read about Bryan’s case in a New York Times Magazine article in 2018, and it inspired him to write “The Guardians” about a team of devoted, underpaid lawyers who work to free innocent inmates. Grisham flew to Beaumont to meet with Bryan in prison.

In the novel, the main character — attorney and Episcopal priest Cullen Post — takes on the case of Quincy Miller, who was convicted 22 years ago for the murder of his divorce lawyer. The conviction was based on spurious “back spatter” evidence that has since been discredited and on false testimony by a supposed eyewitness, a jailhouse snitch, and a disgruntled ex-wife. Post works to get the witnesses to admit they lied and to find a forensic expert to re-examine the evidence in light of new scientific data.

Meanwhile, Post and his investigator could find themselves or others involved in the long-ago trial in danger from corrupt, powerful and wealthy forces who don’t want the truth to come out.

Grisham, author of 40 novels, is on the board of the Innocence Project which has worked on 189 successful DNA-based exonerations. He based his character Cullen Post on a former prison chaplain, James McCloskey, whose team at Centurion Ministries has helped free 63 innocent men and women.

You can read more on-line about the Joe Bryan case. I Googled “Joe Bryan, John Grisham” and found several interesting interviews with the author and an article about his talk at the Texas Book Festival in October.

Save 20 percent on The Guardians in-store at Texas Star Trading, 174 Cypress St., downtown Abilene.

perini ranch steakhouseCookbooks topped the list in 2019

By Glenn Dromgoole

Last year was a very good year for books at Texas Star Trading, especially cookbooks. Three of the five best-selling books in 2019 were cookbooks.

  1. The new Perini cookbook, Perini Ranch Steakhouse, set a store record for the most books sold in a single year, and it didn’t even come out until mid-November. We’ve never seen anything like it in the 15 years we’ve been in business. People were buying multiple copies – 6, 8, 10, even 20 – as Christmas presents. We had Tom and Lisa Perini for a book signing and it was the biggest turnout we’ve ever had. The new cookbook will no doubt be one of the best-selling titles at Texas Star in 2020 as well.
  2. The number two seller at Texas Star in 2019 was Ellen Webb’s cookbook, You’ll Be Going Back for Seconds. Ellen – Carol Dromgoole’s mom – passed away in August. Her popular cookbook had been out of print for a couple of years, but after the funeral we had a number of requests for us to reprint it. So we did, and family and friends scooped it up. We still have plenty of copies left, with Ellen on the cover in her red apron holding a mouth-watering platter of her signature fried chicken.
  3. John Erickson, author of the popular Hank the Cowdog books, included Texas Star Trading on his West Texas book-launch tour of Finding Hank, an attractive hardcover volume answering the most often asked questions about Hank. We had a great turnout, and Finding Hank finished the year as our number three book. Fans also bought so many copies of the first Hank book, The Original Adventures of Hank the Cowdog, that it came in sixth for the year.
  4. Our overall best-seller in the 15 years we’ve been in business is the first Perini cookbook, Texas Cowboy Cooking, which went out of print in 2019 but not before ranking as our number four book for the year. It nearly always placed among Texas Star’s top three to five books every year.
  5. Steve Butman’s color photographs and Loretta Fulton’s crisp text made for a beautiful coffee-table book about our fine city – Abilene: Heart of the Big Country. The book was launched at a book signing at Texas Star in August, and it came in number five for the year. It ought to be on every coffee table in town.

Well, that’s the top five, or really six, books for 2019, and we have plenty of copies of each (except Texas Cowboy Cooking) as we plunge ahead in 2020. By  the way, yet another cookbook – Mack Eplen’s Best-Kept Secrets – was number seven for the year.

Thank you for your support. Please consider Texas Star throughout the year when you need a book, gift or gift basket for birthdays and other special occasions.

            Note: Glenn Dromgoole’s ‘Texas Reads” column will no longer appear in the Abilene Reporter-News.  However, he will continue to write about new Texas books through this “Book Notes” blog, available to Texas Star Trading e-mail recipients and through the store’s web site, www.texasstartrading.com.

John Powell of Abilene, author of “It’s Never That Simple: Essays to Broaden the Conversation” will sign books at Texas Star from noon-2 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 17.

The book includes a collection of John’s essays that have been printed in “The Abilene Reporter-News” in recent years.

Call to reserve a copy, or stop by to say hello to John!

Holiday hours at Texas Star are 9:30 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Saturday, beginning Monday, Dec. 2.

We will be open late on Tuesday, Dec. 3, and Friday, Dec. 6, as part of the Abilene Downtown Associations’ City Sidewalks celebration.

Shop online anytime!

Three book signings scheduled this week at Texas Star:

Friday, Dec. 6

Carole Mahanay signing copies of “Mahanay Brothers” from 1-2:30.

Matt Roemisch will sign copies of “Purple Polka Dotted Peanut Butter Eater” from 4-6.

Saturday, Dec. 7

Charles Russell will sign copies of “When the Cactus Blooms” from 11 a.m.-1 p.m.

mahanay brotherspurple polka dotted peanut butter eaterwhen the cactus blooms

Texas Star will close Wednesday at 4, and will be closed all day Thursday, Thanksgiving Day.

We will be open from 10-5:30 Friday and Saturday. Stop in to check out our holiday deals, and don’t miss Small Business Saturday promotions — free gifts and extra sales!

Carole Mahanay of Abilene will sign copies of her nonfiction book, “Mahanay Brothers: Between Two Dates of Infamy,” from 1-2:30 Friday, Dec. 6.

perini ranch steakhouse

Tom and Lisa Perini’s new cookbook, “Perini Ranch Steakhouse: Stories and Recipes for Real Texas Food,” will be available at Texas Star on Monday, Nov. 18. But plan to attend the book signing event from 5-7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 19, so you can say hello to Tom and Lisa, get your book signed and enjoy some tasting samples from their cookbook.

If you can’t make it, give us a call and we’ll save a copy for you.