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11 November 2015

Authors from my home town

I grew up in San Angelo, a small city out in West Texas. I say "small" but really it's more like mid-size; it's just not on an Interstate so it feels like it's smaller than it really is, being basically out in the middle of nowhere. I have mixed feeling about my home town, as many people do: it felt stifling and I couldn't wait to get away, but now that I've actually been away for several years I can look back on it fondly (mostly).

I was inspired by Heather at Based on a True Story to try to find some books about famous people from my home town. Unfortunately, there aren't all that many to choose from and almost none of them have books written about them. So I decided to switch it up and focus on writers from San Angelo instead.

So, without further ado....

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The first and most obvious choice for this list is Elmer Kelton, prolific producer of many well-loved Western novels.

Though Westerns as a popular genre have come and gone, if you've ever read even a single bonafide Western there's a good chance it was one of Kelton's. His books won several Spur Awards from the Western Writers of America, as well as many other accolades including the Lone Star Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Larry McMurtry Center at Midwestern State and a sidewalk star at the Fort Worth Stockyards. He even has a literary award named after him (see below). So, y'know, he was kind of a big deal.

I'm embarrassed to say that I've read only one of his books, and I don't even remember which one it was. It was required reading for some high school class and I just wasn't into it. Westerns have never interested me much. That said, a heavy wave of nostalgia has me thinking that I ought to at least give another Kelton book a try.

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The second author I'd like to feature is Lucy A. Snyder, a SFF/Horror writer who grew up in San Angelo but now lives in Ohio where she currently serves as Mentor to students at Seton Hill University's MFA program.

Snyder has won the Bram Stoker Award for several items, including a SFF poetry collection (I didn't even know that such a thing existed and I'm delighted by the thought), and a Black Quill award for a Horror short story collection, among other awards and nominations.

It's funny -- I haven't read any of Snyder's works, either. And there are a lot to choose from! I'm interested in trying her Spellbent "dark urban fantasy" series (sarcasm quotes because I kind of hate the use of urban as a genre term), about an outlaw apprentice wizard who battles evil forces with a small fluffy/dangerous familiar and, apparently, a shotgun. Color me intrigued.

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I was particularly delighted to discover the work of Jay Presson Allen, a screenwriter and playwright who was born in San Angelo in 1922. I hope it isn't "cheating" that I'm including her on this list of authors, since she wasn't really a novelist!

She is perhaps best known for adapting Alfred Hitchcock's Marnie and Bib Fosse's Cabaret for the silver screen. Most of her other works involved leading roles for women. She was also primarily concerned with adapting novels for the stage or screen, or adapting stage plays for movies.

Though I have seen the movie version of Cabaret, I don't think I've seen any of Presson Allen's other works. I do like Hitchcock films, though, so I think I'll add Marnie to my to-watch list.

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The last author I'll highlight today is Patrick Dearen. He's technically from Sterling City, a small town about 40 miles northwest of San Angelo, but he wrote for the San Angelo Standard-Times for a good while so I suppose I can claim him for this list.

Dearen writes Westerns that are notable for their historical accuracy -- no surprise, considering his dedicated attention to the details of West Texas history, including a big oral history project featuring the stories of actual 19th/early 20th century cowboys. His 2012 novel The Big Drift recently won a Spur Award. The same book also bagged an Elmer Kelton (there he is again!) Award from the Academy of Western Artists in 2014.

Yet again, I have to confess that I'm not familiar with any of the stuff this author has produced. It's too bad really as I typically just love historical fiction that is actually accurate and well-researched. Even though his Westerns aren't really my cup of tea, I'll be looking to see if any of his nonfiction stuff is appealing. As a 7th generation Texan and family historian, I'm quite interested in any historical events that might have impacted the lives of my ancestors.

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Edited after posting to add Jenny Lawson (a.k.a. The Bloggess) to this list! OK, it might be cheating a tiny little bit because she's actually from Wall, a small town -- extremely small -- about 10 miles southeast of the city. But I don't care. It's close enough to home to count.

Jenny Lawson is really known for her famously funny/insightful blog (see link above), but she's written 2 memoirs about growing up in a quirky family and dealing with mental illness as an adult. She collects strange taxidermied animals and photos of celebrities collating paper, among other things.

I LOVED LOVED LOVED Let's Pretend This Never Happened. It had me laughing so hard that I cried. It's one of my all-time favorites and I recommend it to just about everyone. I haven't read her newest book, Furiously Happy yet, but I plan to ask for it for Christmas.

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Although I'm quite sure there are many other authors from or residing in San Angelo, these 4 5 are probably the most notable.

Have you read (or watched) any of their works?

Do you know of any famous writers from your own home town?

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