Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Butler Did It!

Sometimes reality is stranger with fiction. That’s surely the case with the history of Rice University. Students hurrying to classes on the campus of this renowned research university have no idea that there almost was no Rice University. It’s a tangled tale of greed, conspiracy, forged and contested wills.William Marsh Rice’s second wife, Elizabeth Baldwin Rice, was, shall we say, a bit insecure and self-centered. She loved to entertain and demanded adequate quarters to do that in grand style. The couple kept apartments in hotels in New York City and Houston, where they stayed at the Capitol which her husband owned. She referred to herself alternately as Mrs. Rice of Houston and Mrs. Rice of New York, though she preferred the social scene in New York. When she had a stroke, her husband sent her to a facility in Minnesota because he thought she would benefit from cooler weather. Mrs. Orren Holt accompanied her and was among her constant companions.
Mrs. Rice’s mind was affected by the stroke, and urged by lawyer Orren Holt, she made out a new will. Instead of leaving everything to her husband, she distributed large sums far and wide to relatives and causes of her own choosing. She would have the will filed in Texas, where her estate would be entitled to half her husband’s considerable fortune. Holt was executor, for which he would receive the enormous sum of $100,000.

Rice himself meanwhile knew nothing of this new will and was devoted to the idea of establishing an institute in Houston to be known as the Wm. M. Rice Institute of Literature, Science and Art, and to which he would leave his entire fortune. The institute was incorporated in Austin, and Rice’s attorney, James A. Baker, Jr., chaired the board.

After a second stroke, Elizabeth Rice died and the will was filed. Rice was shocked. If the will stood, he would not have the funds to establish his institute. He appealed, and the case hinged on residency. Rice claimed his wife’s primary residence was in New York and the will was not valid in Texas.

Rice, now an octogenarian, established himself in an apartment in New York City, with one Charlie Jones as his man servant. He had Houston businessman Emanuel Raphael looking after the institute’s business and a young but highly capable Arthur Cohn handling all other business affairs in Houston.

It began to look as if Mrs. Rice’s lawyers were not going to be able to establish her Texas residency, so Holt hired Albert Patrick, an unsuccessful and unscrupulous lawyer, disbarred in Texas, to investigate in New York City. Patrick befriended Charlie Jones and convinced him he had earned a legacy from Rice. Slowly, he drew Jones into a complicated scheme of forged wills and correspondence, had him convince Rice to take mercury pills for his digestion, and finally convinced the gullible Jones to smother his already-weakened employer with chloroform.

The story gets even more exciting after Rice’s death when newspapers had a field day with the story of the millionaire who, in life, had shunned publicity. But read it for yourself in the new edition of the 1972 biography, William Marsh Rice and His Institute, edited by Randal Hall, written by Sylvia Stallings Morris, and based on the research notes and papers of Andrew Forest Muir.

You can guess the outcome, of course: Rice University is today one of the nation’s leading universities. But how its legacy was saved by one determined lawyer and what happened to the villains makes pretty interesting reading. It’s as good as a lot of modern-day whodunits.

Written By: Judy Alter

Judy Alter is the author of the Kelly O’Connell Mysteries, Skeleton in a Dead Space, No Neighborhood for Old Women, and the forthcoming Trouble in a Big Box, as well as the Blue Plate Mysteries which will debut in January. For twenty years, she served as director of TCU Press.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Your Weekend: Exploring the Brazos River

No summer is complete without an outdoor adventure.  Why not make a new summer memory, and explore a Texas river that is unlike any other? The Brazos River is both Texas's longest river and it has the largest flow of any other river in the state. Whether you want to canoe, fish, swim, camp, kayak, boat, or tube, the possibilities are endless along the Brazos River. Take a break from your routine and experience the beauty and mystery of being outdoors.

The Brazos River of Texas begins in eastern New Mexico and empties into the Gulf of Mexico. The river is lengthy, and no two places along it are the same. The river’s flow is constantly changing, along with its variation in ecology and wildlife. Some of the wildlife you can find include snakes, ducks, snails, beavers, alligator gar, turtles, and many different species of fish. But don’t worry; most of these animals are afraid of humans and only attack when cornered!

Exploring the Brazos River: From Beginning to End (Texas A&M University Press, 2011) by Jim Kimmel is your ultimate guide to having the best summer adventure yet. Filled with beautiful photographs, maps, landmarks, and descriptions of both the river’s ecology and flow, it is perfect for any outdoor enthusiast. Kimmel also provides the inside scoop on specific places to explore the river and land surrounding it.

Author Jim Kimmel and Photographer Jerry Touchstone Kimmel have provided us with a summary of their book and why they wrote it:
“Can’t afford to explore the Amazon River? Then explore the Brazos. It is a wild place with ‘gators, gars, snakes, and even some pretty wild natives. The 400 miles from Waco to the mouth of the river near Freeport is one of the longest undammed lengths of river in the U.S. The river’s history is long and fascinating. Clovis people lived on its banks at least 12,000 years ago, and the Brazos was the main transportation artery for the Anglo settlement of Texas as steamboats struggled against floods or crawled over sandbars. Four tributaries flowing from just below the Caprock Escarpment east of Lubbock form the modern Brazos, but its drainage extends into eastern New Mexico. The upper tributaries are bright red and one is saltier than sea water.
We wrote this book to inspire you to explore the Brazos to learn what it does and how it works. We list all of the places of public access to the Brazos and provide easy-to-understand information about climate, geology, ecology, and people. We hope this book turns you into a river explorer who learns the importance of rivers and wants to protect them.”

Location: Dinosaur Valley State Park, P.O. Box 396, Glen Rose, Texas 76043

Getting There: From College Station take TX-6 North towards Waco for about 80 miles. When you are in Waco you will continue onto TX-6 N/Texas Loop 340 for another 50 miles. Turn left onto TX-144N/Main St in Meridian, and continue for another 24 miles. Turn left onto SW Barnard St, take 3rd left onto SW Big Bend Trail, and then turn right onto Farm to Market Rd 205. Turn right after 3 miles onto Park Rd 59.

About Dinosaur Valley State Park: Located on Paluxy River, a tributary of the Brazos River, this state park gets its name from the double set of dinosaur tracks once embedded in the river’s bed. Although these tracks were removed to be put on display in museums, there are still similar tracks found throughout the park.

What You'll See: Besides ancient dinosaur track sightings, the state park is a great place for both learning and relaxation. The river is clear and the land surrounding is abundant in vegetation. The park also has great trails for walking and sightseeing.

Kimmel Recommends: Learning more about the river and its flows. “Dinosaur Valley State Park . . . is a wonderful place to learn about the river and the land. . . A trail along the river has a set of signs that explains the fluvial processes of this flashy river.”

Order Exploring the Brazos River: From Beginning to End on our website for more author tips, river facts, and places to visit!

TELL TAMU PRESS: Have you ever explored the Brazos River? What was your favorite experience/memory?
--Madeline Loving

Thursday, July 26, 2012

2012 Marks the 99th Anniversary Since World War I


In August 1914, two European coalitions stumbled into war. On one side were the Central Powers: the German and Austro-Hungarian Empires. Quickly they were joined by non-European Turkey and later by a third European (Balkan) nation, Bulgaria.
Facing them was the Triple Entente, comprised of Russia, France and Great Britain and her empire, plus Belgium, Luxembourg, Serbia and Montenegro. Through the course of the war a number of other European powers found it in their interests to enlist with the Allies, including Italy, Romania, Portugal and Greece.

From the beginning, France and Great Britain utilized troops from their empires first to defend their colonial possessions around the world from Africa through Asia to the Pacific Ocean and, second, to provide manpower in the main combat arena on the Western Front in France as well as in the Middle East. Even at the start, participation in the Great War was trans-European.--World War I Historical Association

Soon, the Middle East, Asia, and the United States were also involved.
This year marks the 99th anniversary of the declaration of the first World War.

For more information concerning World War I please go to http://ww1ha.org/ or check out our flyer of World War I books.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Is it "Davy" or "David" Crockett?

In an article by the Houston Chronicle on July 8th, the Associated Press asks the question “Is it ‘Davy’ or ‘David’ Crockett?” Their article states that “he was born 'David,'” signed documents “David,” and titled his 1834 autobiography A Narrative of the Life of David Crockett of the State of Tennessee.” There’s even a state park using the name “David” in Tennessee, a high school in Washington County using the name “David,” and a book by Buddy Levy using the name “David.” 

However, there are also two additional lakes using “Davy,” as well as a tower in Nashville, another state park in Greene County, and later Bill Hayes, Ernie Ford and Fess Parker’s chart topper song “The Ballad of Davy Crockett.”

Paul Hutton, a history professor at the University of New Mexico who has studied Crockett extensively said “David just doesn’t fit the image of a frontier fighter and brave warrior at the Alamo in Texas.” Michael A. Lofaro, a professor of English at the University of Tennessee who has researched folklore agrees with Hutton saying that “’almanacs’ in the mid-1800s used ‘Davy.’”
Thankfully, the one thing both sides seem to agree on is that he was a “frontiersman, Tennessee legislator, U.S. congressman, defender at the Alamo and folk hero.”
What do you think?
For more information on the controversy surrounding Colonel Crockett, check out our book How Did Davy Die? And Why Do We Care So Much?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A Dog and a Newspaper Column

Did you know that the skies above the Texas coast used to be filled with seemingly limitless numbers of canvasbacks, mallards, and Canada geese? Hunters once harvested ducks, shorebirds, and other waterfowl by the hundreds in a single morning. The hundred-year-period from the mid-19th to the mid-20th centuries brought great changes in attitudes and game laws -- changes initially prompted by sportsmen who witnessed the disappearance of birds and their habitat.

In A Hundred Years of Texas Waterfowl Hunting: The Decoys, Guides, Clubs, and Places, 1870s to 1970s (Texas A&M University Press, 2012), author R. K. Sawyer explores that 100-year period. His book includes research from interviews with experienced waterfowl hunters as well as historical and modern photographs. His book also showcases hunting clubs, decoys, duck and goose calls, equipment, and hunting practices of the period.

 We asked author R. K. Sawyer what inspired him to write a book about waterfowl hunting:
“Credit for ‘A Hundred Years of Texas Waterfowl Hunting’ goes mostly to a dog and a newspaper column. First, the dog. I visited Chet Beaty in 2007 to purchase a Chesapeake Bay Retriever, Nellie, and in his office, Chet had a stack of old Texas waterfowling history photos. They were the John Winter Collection, loaned to him by Cliff Fisher, and those hundreds of pictures from 1914 to the 1940s led me to believe someone ought to compile them.  Next, the newspaper. Around the same time, Houston Chronicle ‘Outdoor’ writer Shannon Tompkins wrote of late 1800s canvasbacks in Lake Surprise, Chambers County. That, too, convinced me that someone ought to write a tome on historical Texas water fowling. With the dog, photos, and a newspaper column, I set out on the journey. I was not a writer. But, since then, I have learned that an amateur can write a book; the only difference is that the professional writer can do it in three drafts, the amateur in something a little over a hundred.”
Rob Sawyer has been a waterfowl hunter since 1964, the seeds of his lifelong passion sown on Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay.  Since then Rob has hunted waterfowl over a good portion of the Eastern and Central Flyways, and even New Zealand.  Rob’s inspiration for his two-volume series on the history of Texas waterfowl hunting stems from a lifetime of collecting Chesapeake Bay fowling stories, and over the years, he expanded his interest to include most of North America.  But Rob found little material on Texas, a region he was sure had a waterfowling heritage as robust as those that were better documented.  Rob was right.  The result was his first book, A Hundred Years of Texas Waterfowl Hunting – The Decoys, Guides, Clubs, and Places, and a second volume, due out in 2013, titled Texas Market Hunters, Game Laws, and Outlaws

Rob currently resides in Sugar Land, Texas, with his wife Wendy, daughter Christen, and a Chesapeake Bay retriever.  He can found from September through February each year prowling the Texas prairie for geese and cranes, or the coastline for ducks, and is on the staff of Thunderbird Hunting Club in Matagorda. 

Look for A Hundred Years of Texas Waterfowl Hunting this fall! Check out more information about this new book here!
--Madeline Loving

Friday, July 20, 2012

Your Weekend: Galveston's Historic District

Being BOI, or born on the island, is a big deal in Galveston. Artist Eugene Aubry, BOI and nationally famous architect, captures on paper the sensitibilities, the memories, and the grace that evokes Galveston, in his exquisite watercolors and drawings. 

In Born on the Island: The Galveston We Remember (Texas A&M University Press, 2012), artist Eugene Aubry and architectural historian Stephen Fox collaborate to enhance the visual record of the buildings and the unique architectural style many have appreciated over the years, as well as produce a tribute to the great island of Galveston.

The Mallory Building, located in Galveston's famous Strand Historic District and featured in the book, is an example of one nostalgiac Galvestonian site. It's a must-see!

Location: The Mallory Building, 2114 Strand, Galveston, Texas

Getting There: From Houston, take I-45 South for 50 miles. Continue onto TX-87 N/Broadway Avenue J, and turn left onto 33rd St. After .5 miles turn right onto Harborside Dr, take another quick right onto 22nd St, and then turn left onto Avenue B/Strand St. The Mallory Building will be on the left!

About the Mallory Building: Located in Galveston’s famous Strand Historic District, the Mallory Building is a recorded Texas Historic Landmark since 1962. Although originally built in 1877, the building was rebuilt in 1881 after a fire. It is a great example of 19th century architecture and history.

What You’ll See: The Mallory Building, sometimes known as the Produce Building, is located on the most popular street of Galveston, the Strand. Its beautiful Victorian Era architecture contains many layers of space that appeal to its unique architecture design. It also has many arched openings along the sidewalk.

While You’re At It: Walk alongside the most popular tourist attraction in Galveston, the Strand. This strip in downtown Galveston is named as a National Historic Landmark District. The street contains many 19th century buildings that now house various shops and restaurants, giving tourists much to see, eat, and explore.

--Madeline Loving

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Author to be Interviewed About New Book

On August 17, 2012 WCHE Entertainment and Culture Show will interview Brian T. Atkinson, author of I'll Be Here in the Morning: The Songwriting Legacy of Townes Van Zandt. Be sure to listen live over WCHE 1520 AM in Chester County, PA and some surrounding areas starting at approximately 3:00 p.m. ET or on the internet at http://www.wche1520.com/entertainmentandculture.htm. Also check out more information on Brian’s new book here.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Alamo Saga -- Revised?

On June 13 San Antonio sculptor Rolando Briseño spearheaded a Fiesta Patronal celebration in his hometown a traditional one- to nine-day event honoring a saint. But, the event in honor of Saint Anthony, San Antonio’s namesake, was not just any party.
The local artist and subject of Norma Cantu’s book Moctezuma’s Table: Rolando Briseño's Mexican and Chicano Tablescapes  (Texas A&M University Press, 2010) believes that “recreating and celebrating the fiesta patronal in front of the Alamo” is a way of “incorporating a more comprehensive history of the Alamo, San Antonio, and Texas ─ one that includes everybody.
A fiesta patronal is usually dedicated to a saint or virgin, who is the patron of the city the fiesta is being held in. Usually, residents flood the town streets with colorful decorations and other cultural adornments. In larger cities, there are fiestas for each neighborhood, usually honoring the patron saint for the local parish.
Depending on the budget, the fiestas patronales may last just one day (the day of the saint being honored) or as long as nine days (referred to as el novenario). Most fiestas patronales feature verbenas, live entertainment by famous international or local singers, amusement parks, and street vendors, among other things, during the celebration. However, these celebrations are not national holidays, because they only reflect the celebration of one city or town and are religious celebrations.
The fiesta patronal led by Briseño took place on the saint's feast day, June 13 in front of the saint's shrine, Mission San Antonio de Valero or the Alamo. The city is named in his honor because the Spanish/Mexicans arrived at the future site of the city on June 13, 1691.
Briseño’s sculpture, San Alamo, was the centerpiece of the procession. Carried by actors dressed as African slaves and period illegal Anglo immigrants, his masterpiece was mounted on a swivel. When it arrived at the Alamo it was placed on the table of negotiation and flipped! Then the fiesta began with an Alamo piñata that spilled hundreds of babies when broken open. The project was based on the tradition of placing Saint Anthony's statue upside down when requesting a favor from the saint. The favor being requested in this case is that Mexican Americans share in the Alamo legacy and take their rightful place as the heirs of the builders and descendants of the original peoples of the city.
Briseño’s hope is that “this metaphorical performance will promote greater cultural and historical awareness and understanding and initiate a dialogue leading to a re-conceptualization of the Alamo as a space for celebrating the confluences of the various cultures--- Native American, Spanish, African, Mexican and Anglo--- rather than as a shrine to Anglo Texan hegemony.”
For more information on his Briseño and his artwork, check out his website at http://www.rolandobriseno.com/.

--Paige Bukowski

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Unique Texas Traditional Music

For those of you who thought Texan music was comprised only of country music, think again. In his new book Everyday Music, folklorist, photographer, and filmmaker Alan Govenar uncovers the musical talents and traditions found all over Texas. Between 1983 and 1988, Govenar traveled more than 35,000 miles around Texas, interviewing, recording, and photographing the many hidden musical talents of Texas. What Govenar found was an eclectic and diverse group of musicians, with traditions and music as unique as the culture itself.

Govenar documents the various musical experiences he encountered. From Native American drumming and chant to Cambodian music, Govenar has found it all. Everyday Music is filled with photographs, maps, and personal interviews with the talented musicians featured. Govenar also provides a companion website with video clips, recorded interviews, and performances.

Govenar is the president of Documentary Arts, Inc., a Dallas-based nonprofit organization he founded in 1985 to present new perspectives on historical issues and diverse cultures.

For a new perspective on Texas music and traditions, check out Govenar’s book and companion website, www.everydaymusiconline.org.


--Madeline Loving

Friday, July 13, 2012

Your Weekend : Historic Trees of Texas

In the hot and humid Texas weather, the only interest many people have with trees is whether they can find small relief from skyrocketing temperatures. Yet it is interesting to discover the legends, people, and histories associated with some of the oldest ‘living witnesses’ found in Texas.
In his book Living Witness: Historic Trees of Texas (Texas A&M University Press, 2012), Austin-native and photographer Ralph Yznaga presents a unique tribute to the beauty and history found in Texas nature. Inspired by the Texas Forest Service book, Famous Trees of Texas, Yznaga has carefully documented 37 historic trees, giving readers a brief history, photographs, and driving directions to the biggest and oldest trees found in Texas.

For this Weekend with TAMU Press Books, Yznaga has provided us with his inspiration for the book, as well as his favorite tree:

“The inspiration for my book was a wonderful old book published in 1969 by the Texas Forestry Service called Famous Trees of Texas. My book revisits the trees from that book and provides an updated version of our historic trees. Like the original, my book provides a map and driving directions to each tree. There is a further continuity between the two books as the Texas Forestry Service Press and TAMU Press are now the same entity.

It is hard to choose a favorite tree, as I love them all, but I will say the Heart O' Texas Oak is probably it. There is nothing terribly amazing about the look of the tree. And it is certainly not the most significant tree, as its claim to fame is that it is located at the very center of the state as determined by a survey in the 1920's. What makes it special to me was standing close to it on that unpopulated road on a beautifully clear autumn afternoon. I felt a million miles from civilization and was able to enjoy the outdoor pleasures that make traveling around the state so memorable. It was a perfect day. “

What: Heart O' Texas Oak

Location: Country road south of Brownwood, in between Mercury and Brookesmith.

Getting There: From Brady, head north on US Highway 377 for 20 miles. Turn right on Farm RD 502, and continue on through Mercury, TX. Turn south on Ranch Road 1028; proceed 2/10ths of a mile to the tree.

About: The Heart O’ Texas Oak acts as a marker for the geographic center of the state, as determined by a survey in 1922. It is located exactly at the center point where the four equal quarters of the state meet.

What You'll See:  The tree is not markedly tall, old, or beautiful. It is a modest tree, with no sign to indicate its significance, but it rests in the beautiful and quiet countryside, a perfect and peaceful escape.

--Madeline Loving

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Old Wal-Mart Turned into New Library

The country’s largest single-story library can now be found in McAllen, Texas. This town really knows how to recycle and reuse—they turned a 124,500 sq. ft. Wal-Mart into a public library. That is roughly the size of 2 ½ football fields! How did they turn such an enormous, vast, awkward space into use as a place that fosters creativity and knowledge? They used basic elements of design. By painting the whole interior one color—white, readers don’t feel like they are in a warehouse. Designers also sectioned off the library with specific colors, giving the wide space organization and structure.
The McAllen Main Library was the recipient of the 2012 Library Interior Design Awards. To see pictures and read more about it, click here!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Houston’s History Untold?

In a recent article in the Houston Chronicle, columnist Lisa Gray asserts that “Houston doesn’t tell its own stories. It doesn’t celebrate its icons. Compared to other big cities, there aren’t many books . . . about Houston.”
As a publisher that, for years, has thought of itself (perhaps immodestly) as “Houston’s university press,” Texas A&M Press begs to differ. Dozens of our books cover virtually every aspect of Houston’s history, culture, resources, and peoples: from the decisive and far-reaching battle at San Jacinto to the story of Houston’s Hispanic community, from the biography of William Marsh Rice and the world-class university he founded to the development of “Houston’s Silent Garden” (Glenwood Cemetery), from a careful analysis of Hurricane Ike and its aftermath to the definitive biography of Depression-era mover and shaker Jesse Jones.  
To see for yourself a representative sample of the many books TAMU Press has to offer on Houston—and also Galveston!—check out these flyers.
--Paige Bukowski

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

A Close Call: What if the CIA had not Spotted Soviet Strategic Missiles in Cuba?

In 1962 President John F. Kennedy’s administration narrowly averted possible nuclear war with the USSR, when CIA operatives spotted Soviet surface-to-surface missiles in Cuba, after a six-week gap in intelligence-gathering flights.

In their forthcoming book Blind over Cuba: The Photo Gap and the Missile Crisis, co-authors David Barrett and Max Holland make the case that the affair was a close call stemming directly from a decision made in a climate of deep distrust between key administration officials and the intelligence community.

Using recently declassified documents, secondary materials, and interviews with several key participants, the authors weave a story of intra-agency conflict, suspicion, and discord that undermined intelligence-gathering, adversely affected internal postmortems conducted after the crisis peaked, and resulted in keeping Congress and the public in the dark about what really happened.

We asked Barrett, a professor of political science at Villanova University, to discuss the actual series of events and what might have happened had the CIA not detected Soviet missiles on Cuba.

The Actual Sequence of Events . . .

Some months after the Cuban Missile Crisis, an angry member of the Armed Services Committee of the House of Representatives criticized leaders of the Kennedy administration for having let weeks go by in September and early October 1962, without detecting Soviet construction of missile sites in Cuba.  It was an intelligence failure as serious as the U.S. ignorance that preceded the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, he said. 
Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara aggressively denied that there had been an American intelligence failure or ineptitude with regard to Cuba in late summer 1962.  McNamara and others persuaded most observers the administration’s performance in the lead-up to the Crisis had been almost flawless, but the legislator was right: The CIA had not sent a U-2 spy aircraft over western Cuba for about a six week period.

There were varying reasons for this, but the most important was that the Kennedy administration did not wish to have a U-2 “incident.”  Sending that aircraft over Cuba raised the possibility that Soviet surface-to-air missiles might shoot one down.  Since it was arguably against international law for the U.S. to send spy aircrafts over another country, should one be shot down, there would probably be the same sort of uproar as happened in May 1960, when the Soviet Union shot down an American U-2 flying over its territory. 

Furthermore, most State Department and CIA authorities did not believe that the USSR would put nuclear-armed missiles into Cuba that could strike the U.S.  Therefore, the CIA was told, in effect, not even to request permission to send U-2s over western Cuba.  This, at a time when there were growing numbers of reports from Cuban exiles and other sources about suspicious Soviet equipment being brought into the country.
As we now know, the Soviets WERE constructing missile sites on what CIA deputy director Richard Helms would call “the business end of Cuba,” i.e., the western end, in the summer/autumn of 1962.  Fortunately, by mid-October, the CIA’s director, John McCone, succeeded in persuading President John F. Kennedy to authorize one U-2 flight over that part of Cuba and so it was that Agency representatives could authoritatively inform JFK on October 16th that the construction was underway.
The CIA had faced White House and State Department resistance for many weeks about this U-2 matter."

What Could Have Happened . . .

What if McCone had not succeeded in persuading the President that the U.S. needed to step up aerial surveillance of Cuba in mid-October?  What if a few more weeks had passed without that crucial October 14 U-2 flight and its definitive photography of Soviet missile site construction? 
If McCone had been told “no” in the second week of October, perhaps it would have taken more human intelligence, trickling in from Cuba, about such Soviet activity before the President would have approved a risky U-2 flight.
The problem JFK would have faced then is that there would have been a significant number of operational medium-range missile launch sites.   Those nuclear-equipped missiles could have hit the southern part of the U.S.  Meanwhile, the Soviets would also have progressed further in construction of intermediate missile sites; such missiles could have hit most of the continental United States.
If JFK had not learned about Soviet nuclear-armed missiles until, say, November 1st, what would the U.S. have done? 
There is no definitive answer to that question, but I think it’s fair to say that the President would have been under enormous pressure to authorize—quickly--a huge U.S. air strike against Cuba, followed by an American invasion.  One thing which discovery of the missile sites in mid-October gave JFK was some time to negotiate effectively with the Soviet Union during the “Thirteen Days” of the crisis.  I don’t think there would have been such a luxury if numerous operational missiles were discovered a couple weeks later.
No wonder President Kennedy felt great admiration and gratitude toward those at the CIA (with its photo interpreters) and the Air Force (which piloted the key U-2 flight).  The intelligence he received on October 16th was invaluable.  I think he knew that if that intelligence had not come until some weeks later, there would have been a much greater chance of nuclear war between the U.S. and the Soviet Union.

Remember to check out Blind over Cuba: The Photo Gap and the Missile Crisis, which is being published this fall!

Monday, July 9, 2012

What Will Be Your #DailyBookPic?!

Last week GalleyCat shared writing teacher Cassandra Neace’s social media project, called “Daily Book Pic” where each day readers post a picture on Twitter and Pinterest following the photo prompts listed below. Although the month of July is already underway, feel free to still join in and post pictures from past topics as well. Tweet to @tamupress for a chance to win a free copy of Recipes from and for the Garden, by Judy Barrett -- one of our hot, new gardening books.

--Paige Bukowski

Friday, July 6, 2012

Your Weekend: Exploring the Texas Colorado River

The Texas Colorado River flows 860 miles southeast across the state of Texas to its mouth on the Gulf of Mexico, straddling 20 counties. It fills nine lakes and man-made reservoirs, providing the water for electricity and farming for many parts of Texas. A few of the lakes the Colorado River feeds into include Inks Lake, Lake Travis, Lake Austin, and Lady Bird Lake.

River of Contrasts: The Texas Colorado (Texas A&M University Press, 2012) by Margie Crisp explores the state's longest river, introducing readers to its denizens -- animal, plant, and human -- and the natural history, politics and other factors influencing the fate of the river and the water it carries.

Paired with Crisps’ stories featuring the Colorado River are pieces of her own artistry. Her photographs and maps round out the useful and beautiful accompaniments to this portrait of one of Texas's most beloved rivers.  

For this Weekends with TAMU Press Books, we asked Crisp about her inspiration for writing the book, as well as for her favorite stretch of the Texas Colorado River:
“When I started the Colorado River project, as far as I was concerned, the river began and ended in Bastrop County.  I know that sounds incredibly short-sighted but it isn't an uncommon perception of the river at all.  When I realized how little I knew about the Colorado River, I got curious. I thought that I knew something about rivers after all, but I soon learned that many of my assumptions about the river were not accurate.  The biggest surprise for me was learning that the water (what little there is) that flows down the river does not necessarily end up in the Gulf of Mexico.  Water is pulled from the river for all sorts of uses, sometimes returned, often not, and new water flows in from tributaries.
The river downstream of Austin (in Bastrop County) was, at one time, incredibly polluted by the City of Austin's sewage overflows.  But no longer.  Now the water is extraordinarily clean and the river is a remarkable place for canoers, kayakers, and fishermen.  From east Austin through Bastrop County, there are numerous public boat ramps as well as outfitters that can supply paddlers with boats and gear.  I'm always surprised that there are so few people who paddle the Colorado, below Austin.  Of course, it is "my section" of the river but the slow current, abundant fish and birds, and clear water make this section of the river a hidden jewel.”

Location: Lost Pines and Red Bluff below Bastrop

Getting There: From College Station, take HWY 21 West towards Bastrop for 77 miles. You can enter the River several ways, one way is through Fisherman’s Park. Once on the Texas Colorado River, paddle through downtown Bastrop, past Fisherman’s Park. You will float under the highway, past Old San Antonio Road crossing, and eventually come upon the sands of the Lost Pines.

About Lost Pines: It is a varying, beautiful river landscape that includes both pine and oak trees. There are many hiking paths alongside the river as well.

What You'll See: Besides the breathtaking and serene views, Crisp has seen bald eagles, ducks, songbirds, cardinals, and numerous wildflowers. She has noted that beavers are a possibility for lucky paddlers, too.
--Madeline Loving

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Throwback Thursday: Best of the 90s

The 1990s: Oversized glasses, obnoxious sweat suits, episodes of Full House, furbies, beanie babies, VCRS...the list of fads could go on. What about the musical obsession with boy bands? Maybe your favorites include NSYNC, Backstreet Boys, or 98 Degrees. Another popular boy band was the British pop band Blur, created in the 1990s.This week Blur will be releasing their first new single in years via Twitter.

In honor of Blur and our love for the great decade of the 90s, we have compiled a staff-curated list of our top 5 favorite books, all originally published in the 1990s.

1.   Courthouses of Texas (Texas A&M University Press, 1993) by Mavis Kelsey and Don Dyal

Courthouses and the “squares” around many of them offer a bonanza for history buffs, antique collectors, genealogists, architecture enthusiasts, and photographers. Many of them house or are near local history museums, and many display historical markers that introduce the area to visitors. Especially in many smaller county seats, the courthouse square offers a genre scene of a special moment in Texas’ life.

2.    One Woman’s Army: A Black Officer Remembers the WAC (Texas A&M University Press, 1995) by Charity Adams Earley

Black members of the WAC had to fight the prejudices not only of males who did not want women in their "man's army," but also of those who could not accept blacks in positions of authority or responsibility, even in the segregated military. With unblinking candor, Charity Adams Earley tells of her struggles and successes as the WAC's first black officer and as commanding officer of the only organization of black women to serve overseas during World War II.

3.    Houston: The Unknown City by Marguerite Johnston.

It is a history marked by murder, mutiny, and the ironies of war, by comedy and high jinks, by heroism and a remarkable generosity. This fascinating social history grew out of Marguerite Johnston's forty years of friendship with the city and its people. It traces Houston's first families through interlinking marriages, charitable associations, and business partnerships.

“The author . . . gave me a delightful and deep insight into a city about which we continue to publish a great deal.  Because of her, I recognize the names and the drama of Houston’s unknown story in a way I could not have otherwise. It’s a great read and a great resource by a great woman.”--Mary Lenn Dixon, Texas A&M University Press editor-in-chief

 4.   Adios to the Brushlands (Texas A&M University Press, 1997) by Arturo Longoria

A trained biologist and one-time investigative reporter, Longoria brings his skills of observation and expression to sing the song of this vanishing habitat that once covered nearly four million acres of the Rio Grande Valley. In moving but understated prose he captures the wonder of the brushland and symbolically and emotionally links its loss, through rootplows and bulldozers, to the death of his grandfather, who had introduced him to that world.

“. . . a classic work of nature writing that gave voice to the South Texas landscape and the people who have watched it change irrevocably.”--Shannon Davies, Texas A&M University Press Lindsey Merrick Editor for the Natural Environment

5.   Twentieth-Century Doctor: House Calls to Space Medicine (Texas A&M University, 1999) by Mavis Kelsey

In understated but compelling prose, Kelsey brings to life this period of unparalleled challenge and growth in the pioneering Houston medical community. Through anecdotes and memories backed by careful notes he took at the time, he reminds readers of the human face of medicine.

“I gained great compassion and understanding about a gentleman who has done so much for the press. Working with Kelsey has been a privilege and an honor.”--Kevin Grossman, Texas A&M University Press Pre-press and Electronic Publishing Manager

You can still order these books from our website, http://tamupress.com.

--Madeline Loving

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Corpus Christi Sands Site of Historic U.S./Mexican Standoff

Next time you're setting out your beach towel or carefully crafting a sand castle on Corpus Christi Beach, consider this: U.S. soldiers once lay in wait for seven months for Mexican forces here.

In 1845 the American Army under the command of General Zachary Taylor encamped on the shoreline of Corpus Christi Bay. From the Mexican viewpoint, the camp was actually inside Mexico. A long-standing dispute between Mexico and the now defunct Republic of Texas about the boundary line separating the two had become an issue with the United States.

Intending to prove that his national domain extended to the Rio Grande by virtue of the annexation of Texas, President Polk ordered Taylor to march 160 miles south to the river. When the army reached the site of present-day Brownsville, Taylor ordered troops to build a fort directly across the Rio Grande from the Mexican village of Matamoros.

A temporary American army camp on the beaches of Corpus Christi Bay was one thing, but a small but permanent fort built on what the Mexicans believed to be their turf was something else. The gauntlet had been thrown down by the invading U.S. forces.

The challenge was quickly answered when on April 25, 1846, a Mexican force of some 1,600 men ambushed a US cavalry patrol, resulting in over 60 American casualties.

Over a century and a half later, the bay is still there, of course, but everything else has changed from its days of military importance, say historians Thomas Alexander and Dan Utley, co-authors of Faded Glory: A Century of Forgotten Texas Military Sites, Then and Now (TAMU Press, 2012).
In the book, the co-authors embark on a journey to uncover 29 forgotten historical sites in Texas, including Corpus Christi Beach.
"A beautiful bay front, featuring towering skyscrapers has replaced the 1845 city of cotton canvas tents," the authors write. "The original beach is covered by a seawall and a manicured sweep of handsome boulevard. No vestige of Taylor's camp managed to survive the decades of necessary improvements that have elevated the terrain where the many tents of his army once swayed in the Gulf's sea breeze."
A cemetery several city blocks inland from the shore contains the graves of sailors killed in a ship’s boiler explosion that occurred on the bay during the time of the encampment on the beach. A marker in nearby Artesian Park indicates a possible site of Taylor’s personal tent, while other accounts suggest the general actually spent his spare time by the bay at a location one and a half mile to the north.

It is possible to stand atop the seawall that spans the bay front and look to the south along the curve of the shoreline to get at least a fleeting sense of the magnitude and sweep of Taylor’s encampment. On the far horizon, some five miles distant, a thin peninsula juts out into the bay. That same landmark is clearly visible in the lithograph made in 1845 when the army’s tents filled nearly every square foot of the beach that has now disappeared beneath a seawall.

Author Tom Alexander gives us his favorite historic site from Faded Glory:

"My favorite site as discussed in Faded Glory is probably Glenn Spring, located deep in the Big Bend National Park.  Once a bustling war factory and army outpost, it is also the site of the last known military invasion of the United States.  Today, it is nothing more than a hard to find pile of rocks."

Look for Faded Glory this fall for more on Texas's forgotten military sites.
--Madeline Loving

Monday, July 2, 2012

Union Pacific Turns 150!

Did you know Congress incorporated the Union Pacific Railroad 100 years ago this month on July 1, 1862? Enacted and approved by President Abraham Lincoln, the railroad forever changed the face of the United States.
Late the following year, railroad workers would break ground on the railroad in Omaha, Nebraska, completing work on the line in 1865. The company hit another milestone four years later when it reached Promontory Summit, Utah and joined with the Central Pacific to create the first transcontinental railroad.
Things were looking well for the railway until 1872 when Union Pacific became embroiled in the Crédit Mobilier scandal, in which railroad officials bribed congressmen and stock speculators. The railway later filed for bankruptcy, reorganizing in 1880. The dominant shareholder, Jay Gould, is the focus of Earle Young’s books Tracks to the Sea and Galveston and the Great West -- both published by Texas A&M University Press. Read more about Tracks to the Sea here: http://bit.ly/LJkdGi and more about Galveston and the Great West here: http://bit.ly/LlqL9r
Thirteen years later the company filed for bankruptcy again; this time resulting in changes that would keep the railways successful. On January 8, 1980, the Missouri Pacific Railway was purchased by Union Pacific, but the merger was not approved until September 13, 1982. However, it still did not become official until January 1, 1997 due to Missouri Pacific’s outstanding bonds. Read more about the Rebirth of the Missouri Pacific (Texas A&M University Press) here: http://bit.ly/OGe2CS
Today, UP headquarters remain in Omaha, with the railway directly owning and operating lines in 23 states in the US, spanning some 54,000 west of the Mississippi River. UP has hundreds of yards throughout the United States.
Celebrate Union Pacific’s 150th birthday by engrossing yourself in the history of the line’s storied past, or, better yet, take a trip to Houston October 27th and 28th for the Houston Community Celebration. For more information about the railway’s birthday celebrations around the United States, visit http://bit.ly/MvD9HA. Also celebrate the 150 year milestone by purchasing one of the above mentioned books for 40% off!
Happy Birthday Union Pacific!
By: Paige Bukowski