February 2009 Archives

small Germania.jpgWhat is it with North Texas novelists making their debuts with really oddball thrillers?

Four years ago, Will Clarke appeared with Lord Vishnu's Love Handles. The novel combines terrorism, Dallas social satire and a Hindu apocalypse. It doesn't always work, but Lord Vishnu surely ranks as one of the stranger, more amusing entertainments by a local writer.

Now comes Brendan McNally (below) with his first novel, Germania. Germania was Adolf Hitler's name for his future world capital in Berlin. It's a terrifically ironic title because McNally's novel is about a German reich very few have ever heard of. Most histories of Nazi Germany end with the complete flameout of the final days in Berlin. They rarely handle what happened next.

A caretaker government was formed in a town called Flensburg. Its basic purpose was to hold on long enough to surrender to somebody. Instead of Hitler's Thousand-Year Reich, Flensburg was the three-week Reich.

So far, so fascinating.

Writers such as Alan Furst and Philip Kerr have uncovered these kinds of nuggets to craft superb thrillers about World War II. McNally is a former defense journalist, so the military history is a natural for him.

February 11, 2009 10:52 AM |
Big_Web_BackPage.jpgTo give some notion of just how big the Spindletop oil field near Beaumont, Texas, originally was: When it was tapped in 1901, that single gusher tripled American's entire production of oil overnight.

According to author Bryan Burrough, Spindletop and what followed began one of the largest accumulations of private wealth in history.

Burrough grew up in Temple, Texas. And pretty much anyone who has been raised in Texas knows about Spindletop. So when his New York editor suggested a book on Texas oil money, Burrough writes that it took him all of 30 seconds to outline his next work. It's a lively, epic new history, The Big Rich: The Rise and Fall of the Greatest Texas Oil Fortunes.

Burrough is best known as the co-author of Barbarians at the Gates, his chronicle of the botched, multi-billion-dollar buyout of RJR Nabisco. He also wrote Public Enemies, a slam-bang history of  the bank-robbing wave of the 1920s and how J. Edgar Hoover used it to boost the FBI. Together, those two volumes required Burrough to research ruthless businessmen, Washington politics, swaggering egos and hard-scrabble criminals.

Excellent preparation for writing about Texas oil.

Texas oil, Burrough says, pretty much created our modern world. Texas oil was so cheap that steamships and railroads switched from coal to diesel. Cheap oil made the auto industry possible -- and everything else that followed: freeways, suburbia, jet travel. Swimming pools, movie stars. The whole wonderful, plentiful, carbon-burning, ozone-depleting spree that has been modern life.

February 3, 2009 9:02 AM |


Best of the Vault


About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from February 2009 listed from newest to oldest.

January 2009 is the previous archive.

March 2009 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Creative Commons License
This weblog is licensed under a Creative Commons License.