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Clicking on a book cover will search for the book in the catalog. If it is not part of our collection, you may request it by clicking on the Can't Find It link. An icon indicates if the book is chosen by a panelist as one of the year's best.

Harsh Country, Hard Times: Clayton Wheat WIlliams and the Transformation of the Trans-Pecos
By Louis Gwin, Janet Pollard. Texas A&M University Press. 320 pp. Index. $35.00.
Pollard and Gwin draw on a substantial family archive to paint an admiring, but fair, portrait of this important West Texas oilman and rancher. Beginning with his service as an artillery instructor in WWI France, Williams emerges as a tenacious, and sometimes pugnacious, entreprenuer and committed family man whose frontier values mirrored and drove the local economy through depression and prosperity. Williams, himself an accomplished amateur historian,would no doubt be pleased with this biography co-authored by his daughter, as will students of the economic development of the Trans-Pecos. []
Williams, 1895-1983, was a rancher, World War I veteran, self-taught petroleum geologist, county commissioner, and historian living mostly in the Fort Stockton area. This book fulfills a promise by his daughter to complete the autobiography begun by Williams before his death. Its interest lies in the descriptions of the challenges and changes of this region in his lifetime, colorful characters, and interesting anecdotes recalled by family members. []

Hassie Calhoun: A Las Vegas Novel of Innocence
By Pamela Cory. Scarletta Press. 396 pp. $15.95.
When a drop-dead-gorgeous girl from Texas hits Las Vegas determined to make it as a star singer, things are bound to go wrong. Lots of behind the scenes maneuvering, love and lust, not to mention ambition and talent, make this a page-turner for a lengthy flight. []

Here I am a Writer
By Christopher McIlroy. Kitsune Books. 247 pp. $15.00.
McIlroy, a Flannery O’Conner Award winner for his book of short stories, here reports on his follow-up interviews with students of the writing workshops he conducted for Yaqui and O’odham youth some ten to twenty years ago. The former students included here were not always easy to find, and his searches and contemporary interactions with them is fascinating. For each student he provides samples of their writing as well as commenting upon his thoughts about them and their work. If you care about writing, whether poetry or narrative, this book will fascinate you.
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In grade school Martín Acuña wrote poems including one about his nana whose “face is like a plum as sweat drips down her face.” Today as an adult he is in and out of prison, and he writes a poem called “2 People in One Body,” one of them “loving, caring, and trusted” while the other “has no heart.” Teacher Christopher McIlory brings us many such before-and-after stories and poems from his writing students, each one touching, revealing, or entertaining. This book may be the most inspiring one you read all year, and it is especially rewarding to hear from young writers – they have much to tell us if we’ll only listen. []

Hoist a Cold One! Historic Bars of the Southwest
By Melody Groves. University of New Mexico Press. 132 pp. $24.95.

Old West ambiance lives in saloons like Rosa’s Cantina in El Paso, The Palace in Prescott, Crystal Palace in Tombstone, and Capitol Bar in Socorro, where thirsty drinkers can hoist a cold beer.
Homeless in Las Vegas: Stories From the Street
By Kurt Borchard. University of Nevada Press. 239 pp. Index. $24.95.
You can trade the title’s name Las Vegas for your town or any city in America and you’ll hear the same wrenching stories about people who live on our streets, some by choice and many by fate, “hapless victims and voluntary exiles.” Borchard listens to their stories, hundreds of them, and puts faces to misery, doubt, and spunk. There seem to be no easy solutions, but housing would help. Bordhard does analyze the problems and concludes “addressing homelessness… requires that we first recognize our shared humanity,” and he takes us on that big step. []
The title might suggest a collection of short fiction. Not so! This follow-up to Borchard’s 2005 study The Word on the Street includes women as well as men and finds that things have not gotten better in Fun City. Frequently including dialog between himself and the homeless people he interviewed, the text brings a serious problem into clear focus. Chapter titles such as “Living Outside the Mainstream with Chronic Alcoholism” and “Homeless, Not Criminal” as well as “Confronting Aggression, Pride and Need in Former Convicts” suggest the wide rangeing coverage. []

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