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TCU Press

Website: http://www.prs.tcu.edu/

TCU Press has traditionally published the history and literature of Texas and the American West. As the press has grown steadily in stature and in its ability to bring credit to its parent university over the last twenty years, it has been praised for publishing regional fiction, which often doesn’t find a market in New York, and for discovering and preserving local history.


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TCU Press

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Steplings Cover

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Steplings

A Novel

CW Smith


Nineteen-year-old Jason is lost. The rush of graduation parties has subsided, the ubiquitous discussion of college departures dimmed to a dull roar. His former classmates have made elaborate plans, but the only date on Jason’s calendar is a court appearance next Monday. Jason, who dropped out of high school just two months shy of graduation, finds himself stuck in the well-worn grooves of his hometown. But when his over-achieving girlfriend Lisa departs for UT Austin to study medicine, Jason finds Mesquite a place he can hardly recognize.  

Jason’s family can offer him little direction.  After his mother Sue’s unexpected death a few years back, his father Burl, fifteen years sober, slipped into old drinking habits. Jason watched the once clockwork-perfect routine of his family life descend into chaos. When Burl marries Lily, a high-strung, high-powered attorney, she brings a daughter into the house: Emily, eleven years old and a self-described know-it-all whose very existence is enough to irritate Jason.

Three days before Jason must appear in court, he receives a “Dear John” letter from Lisa. Heartbroken and determined to convince Lisa of his worth, Jason decides to hitchhike to Lisa’s dorm in Austin—but Emily, desperate to return to her father, a UT professor, overhears Jason’s plans and demands to accompany him. When Burl and Lily return home to find their children missing, Lily puts out an Amber Alert for Emily, accusing Jason of abducting her daughter. The frantic search effort that ensues threatens to destroy the tentative household that Burl and Lily have just begun to establish.

Smith’s gift for creating three-dimensional characters, abundantly demonstrated in his previous TCU Press titles including Understanding Women and Purple Hearts, lends this coming-of-age tale an unexpected quality of honesty and sophisticated narrative rarely seen in contemporary young adult fiction. Mary Powell, author of the TCU Press books Auslander and Galveston Rose, describes Smith’s prose as “rich and sophisticated, yet accessible, and the dialogue is right on.”  Steplings doesn’t romanticize the misadventures of its protagonists. Though Jason and Emily grapple with universal teen issues—Emily searches for acceptance in her new middle school, while Jason balks when confronted with new adult responsibilities—their troubles feel like uncharted territory when expressed through pitch-perfect narrative voices. “Watching Jason self-destruct,” according to Powell, “is akin to watching someone in a horror film go down into the basement.”

The authentic quality of Smith’s prose extends to the Texas setting; readers will recognize their neighbors in the characters that populate Mesquite and Austin. Kate Lehrer observed that Smith also “draws subtle distinctions among social classes.” Smith invokes tension between Jason’s no-frills lifestyle and Lisa’s country-club upbringing, and paints a widening gulf between Burl’s small-town mannerisms and Lily’s cosmopolitan tastes.  

Powell called Steplings “a friendly, hopeful, humorous, and thoughtful book about growing up.” Growing up, however, doesn’t belong exclusively to the young, and Steplings is a story that can’t be shelved neatly in the young adult category. Both teen and adult readers will see themselves in this multifaceted narrative of self-discovery.


 

 

Steven Fromholz Cover

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Steven Fromholz

New and Selected Poems

Steven Fromholz

The State of Texas has honored Texas Poets Laureate for seventy-three years, but much of their work has gone unpublished and unrecognized. In a significant step toward recognizing the achievements of the Texas Poets Laureate, TCU Press will publish a series of the work of the Poets Laureate, with a volume dedicated to each poet. The series begins with the 2005 and 2006 Texas Poets Laureate, Alan Birkelbach and Red Steagall, and will continue through the next five appointments. These beautiful volumes collect the finest work of each individual poet. While a single volume may stand alone as a valuable selection of a poet’s work, the series as a whole will draw their different voices together into a singular poetic expression of Texas. The songs and poems of 2007 Texas Poet Laureate Steven Fromholz tell of a life that began with "bikes and trikes and kites and trees" and has progressed through fatherhood and many days and nights spent on the road. He is a poet as well worth reading as he is a singer worth hearing. Fromholz's poetry and lyrics evoke the western landscape, capture memories of the past and plans for the future, and plumb the depths and heights of feeling engendered by life as a touring musician. Despite a stroke, which felled him for a time, Fromholz still acts a whitewater guide on the Rio Grande, still performs, and still writes the poems that caused the State Legislature to name him Poet Laureate of Texas for 2007.

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Tails on the Hill

Stories about a Family and Its Dogs

Carol Thornton

According to the old adage, a dog is man’s best friend. However, in small town West Texas, a dog is also young girl’s best friend. Told through the eyes of an adolescent female narrator, Carol Thornton’s Tails on the Hill depicts the happenings of the Hill Gang, an eclectic collection of dogs that wander in and out of her life. A refuge for all abandoned dogs, the narrator’s home shelters all types of personalities. Told in brief tales, each dog’s character seems more human and lovable than the next. Yet equally engaging and lovable are the glimpses the narrator offers of her family, especially her father. This is a book about love and loyalty.

There’s Pobre, the peace-loving pound dog, and Posse, the stubborn husky. Then there’s May-ree, the abandoned hunting dog, and Wookie, the German shepherd who always has a new litter of puppies. And who could forget Tootie and Katy, the schnauzers who cause such trouble in the pet parlor? With each tale, the reader is transported into the heartfelt experiences of a unique extended family that includes both people and dogs.

A narrative for any dog lover, Thornton’s Tails on the Hill explores the complex, devoted relationship between dog and owner and will warm the hearts of all readers with its sometimes light and sometimes poignant tales.

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A Texas Jubilee

Thirteen Stories from the Lone Star State

James Ward Lee

Set primarily during the early 1940s, A Texas Jubilee is a collection of short stories about life in fictional Bodark Springs, Texas. Through these stories, author Jim Lee paints a humorous picture of the politics, friendships, and secrets that are part of day-to-day life in this eccentric little Texas town.
Stories like “Rock-ola” and “Pink-Petticoat” reveal secrets and raise questions about many of the town’s more colorful characters. Will Grady Dell reunite with his lost love, Eva? Is there a connection between Edna Earle Morris’s murder and her mysterious visit from Jesus?
Other stories like “Navy, Blue, and Gold” highlight the ways that World War II is causing life to change for everyone in the town. Young Tommy Earl Dell and Fred Hallmark now spend their afternoons staring at the pictures of boys from Eastis County on the Gold Star shelf in the power company's window, dreaming of the day when they will be old enough to join the army. Townspeople now hold their breaths any time John Ed Hallmark, the town’s official messenger, drives his “Chariot of Death” up the street to deliver the news to one of his neighbors that a brother, son, or husband is not coming home from war.
Although the pace of life in this small town is slow, there is never a dull moment in A Texas Jubilee. From the first to last page, readers will be constantly entertained by the exotic and unexpected in this imaginative collection of tales. A Texas Jubilee includes a preface by Jeff Guinn.

 

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Texas, My Texas

Musings of the Rambling Boy

Lonn Taylor

In a collection of essays about Texas gathered from his West Texas newspaper column, Lonn Taylor traverses the very best of Texas geography, Texas history, and Texas personalities. In a state so famous for its pride, Taylor manages to write a very honest, witty, and wise book about Texas past and Texas present. Texas, My Texas: Musings of the Rambling Boy is a story of legacies, of men and women, times, and places that have made this state what it is today.  From a history of Taylor’s hometown, Fort Davis, to stories about the first man wounded in the Texas Revolution, (who was an African American), to accounts of outlaw Sam Bass and an explanation of Hill Country Christmases, Taylor has searched every corner of the state for untold histories.Taylor’s background as a former curator at the Smithsonian National Museum becomes apparent in his attention to detail:  Roosevelt’s Rough Riders, artists, architects, criminals, the founder of Neiman Marcus, and the famous horned frog “Old Rip” all make appearances as quintessential Texans.  

Lonn Taylor’s unique narrative voice is personal.  As he points out in the foreword, it is the stories of Texans themselves, of their grit and eccentricities, that have “brought the past into the present . . . the two seem to me to be bound together by stories.” People—real Texans—are the focus of the essays, making Texas, My Texas a rite of passage for anyone who claims Texan heritage. There are just a few things every good Texan “knows,” like the fact that it is illegal to pick bluebonnets along the highway, or that the Menger Hotel bar is modeled after the one in the House of Lords in London. Taylor points out with his usual wit that it is not, in fact, illegal to pick any of the six varieties of bluebonnets that grow throughout our state, and that few Texans would know that the bar is modeled after the one in the House of Lords, as few Texans are Lords. These are just a few examples of Taylor’s knowledge of Texas and his passion for its citizens.

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Texas People, Texas Places

More Musings of the Rambling Boy

Lonn Taylor

Following up Texas, My Texas: Musings of the Rambling Boy with a second collection of essays, Lonn Taylor’s Texas People, Texas Places again explores the very best of Texas geography, Texas history, and Texas personalities. In a state so famous for its pride, Taylor manages to write an exceptionally honest, witty, and wise book about Texas past and Texas present.
 
Texas People, Texas Places is a story of men and women and places that have made this state great. From a small-town radio host to tight-fisted West Texas ranchers, and even to Taylor’s own family members, Taylor’s subjects paint a profound and dynamic picture.
 
Lonn Taylor shares anecdotes that will appeal to any Texan, in a voice that is as personal as it is unique.

This Last House Cover

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This Last House

A Retirement Memoir

Janis P. Stout

Janis Stout tackles the memoir with a new and inventive approach—she organizes her memories around the houses she’s lived in. ““I picture my life as a long row of houses.” Houses are metaphors for the structures of our lives, and Stout’s houses twine their way along with reflections on work and retirement, marriage, and quietness for engaging in the important last work of life.

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A Walk Across Texas

Jon McConal

Part travelogue, part natural history, and part documentary, A Walk across Texas is the record of three friends’ journey from the Panhandle to Granbury—a 450-mile walk across West Texas. Jon McConal and his two friends, Eddie Lane and Norm Snyder, hiked for twenty-eight days through the less traveled byways of the Texas outlands, and in the process they encountered a world that is now as foreign to most Americans as the Taj Mahal.

Researching places they wanted to see in advance, the trio selected a route that crossed as many creeks and rivers as possible and offered amenable campsites. Not young men, McConal, Lane, and Snyder conquered the harsh environment of West Texas, dealing with blisters and backaches, severe weather and low blood sugar while still remaining friends. Along the way they met unique local characters and visited out-of-the-ordinary sites. With his seasoned journalist’s eye, McConal blends personal interviews and keen descriptions of the countryside they trekked. As he spins the narrative of their journey, local legends, histories, flora, and fauna unfold.

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Wanderer Springs

A Novel

Robert Flynn

Wanderer Springs is a dying town in Northwest Texas, one of that string of dusty towns left to wither away when the highway from Fort Worth to Amarillo bypassed them. For travelers on that highway, the harsh and unforgiving countryside passes as no more than a blur. For Will Callaghan, that country and the town of Wanderer Springs are carved into memory, indelible in their clarity.

Called home from San Antonio by a funeral, Will begins a journey, both physical and imaginative, that crosses not only geographic and cultural boundaries but darts back and forth in time, mixing stories of the town's frontier past with episodes of Will's high school days. In sometimes hilarious and sometimes painful detail, Will relives the football game where he dropped the pass that lost the championship for Wanderer Springs forever, the time he got his gum stuck in his girlfriend's hair, the strangely distant but close relationship of a motherless boy and his taciturn father. Equally clear are the tales from the past--the Turrill family's desperate wagon ride to find a doctor for their daughter, dying of appendicitus, or Lulu Byars who danced and danced in town and caught pneumonia riding back to her dugout in a norther. Wanderer Springs said she died of frivolity.

Through it all, the clear voice of Will Callaghan, a good old boy grown into an intellectual, gives meaning to the chaos, seeks sense out of the past, recognizes our inextricable link to the past.

Wanderer Springs is a wonderfully witty, sensitive novel that will stand out as one of the more serious, thoughtful, and memorable novels to come out of recent Texas writing.

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Wars Within War

Irving Levinson

Traditional characterizations of the 1846–1848 war between the United States and Mexico emphasize the conventional battles waged between two sovereign nations. However, two little-known guerrilla wars taking place at the same time proved critical to the outcome of the conflict. Using information from twenty-four archives, including the normally closed files of Mexico’s National Defense Archives, Wars Within War breaks new ground by arguing that these other conflicts proved crucial to the course of events.

In the first struggle, a force organized by the Mexican army launched a prolonged campaign against the supply lines connecting the port of Veracruz to US forces advancing upon Mexico City. In spite of US efforts to destroy the partisans’ base of support, these armed Mexicans remained a significant threat as late as January 1848.

Concurrently, rebellions of class and race erupted among Mexicans, an offshoot of the older struggle between a predominantly criollo elite that claimed European parentage and the indigenous population excluded from participation in the nation’s political and economic life.

Many of Mexico’s powerful, propertied citizens were more afraid of their fellow Mexicans than of the invaders from the north. By challenging their rulers, guerrillas forced Mexico’s government to abandon further resistance to the United States, changing the course of the war and Mexican history.

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