Texas has been home to some amazing true-life stories: from the battles of the Alamo and San Jacinto to Mission Control on the 1969 Moon Landing to the brutal assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
And while those tales are known to just about everyone who has ever called the Lone Star State home, there are plenty of stories left unknown that are no farther away than your nearest library, book store, or Internet access to the likes of Amazon to download books.
But Texas has also played host to some of the most amazing not-quite-true stories of all time as well; thanks to the state playing host to thousands of books over the course of time – science fiction and westerns, love stories and tragedies; epic tales of oil booms and criminal masterminds.
Here’s a look at some of the very best literature that features the Lone Star State.
- Holes – Ostensibly a novel for young adults, it has stood the test of two decades as a favorite for all ages. While there is no real Camp Green Lake in Texas, author Louis Sachar, who masterfully lends mystery and comedy together into a romp that jumps through time in the pursuit of buried treasure and a curse. The author perfectly captures Texas’ heat as well as anyone who’s ever spent a day outside doing manual labor in the summertime.
- 11/22/63 – Plenty of Texans associate that date with a tone of dread, of panic, and of national outrage as John F. Kennedy was gunned down in downtown Dallas during a parade honoring his visit. Nearly 50 years later, horror master Stephen King penned a time-travel novel that revisits the American tragedy, as high school teacher Jake Epping learns of a portal through time that can take someone back to 1958. Despite his frequent struggles with changing the past for the better, he is determined to do the very best thing he can imagine – stop Lee Harvey Osawld from killing the president. For King, it’s a huge departure from the norm, with most of his stories spawning forth from his head, not real-world events, and a large majority of them taking place in Maine. But King shows you can teach an old dog new tricks by ferociously researching Texas in the 1950s and 1960s to effectively recreate Dallas during that time period.
- All the Pretty Horses – Before Cormac McCarthy was weirding you out with tale of Antwon Sugar in No Country for Old Men or scaring your pants off about the future in The Road, he penned All the Pretty Horses, which tells the tale of John Grady Cole, a 16-year-old boy who lives in about a pretty a picture as you can imagine, on his grandfather’s horse ranch in San Angelo in the late 1940s. But of course, happy stories never last long, and when John’s grandfather dies he decides that heading to Mexico will beat a job in the city, leading him on a wild adventure of horse theft, murder, forbidden love, and the desire that so many of us who have traveled often feel – just getting back home to Texas.
- The Last Picture Show – Author Larry McMurtry is nearly synonymous with great Texas-based literature, having been born in Archer City and educated at the University of North Texas and Rice University. In The Last Picture Show, Duane Moore (Jackson in the movies), tells the tale that so many of us lived, coming of age in a small Texas town, for Duane in the 1950s. The movie is one of the most famous ever about Texas, particularly for its casting of so many young, soon-to-be stars – notably Jeff Bridges, Cybill Shepherd, Timothy Bottoms, and Randy Quaid, and for earning Cloris Leachman an Oscar.
- The Ayes of Texas – Never has an author had more fun mixing state pride with whiz-bang technology than Daniel da Cruz, a San Antonio native who penned this military action piece in the mid-1980s, envisioning a Cold War that lasted into the 21st century. When the US and Soviet Union sign a treaty, it looks like world peace has come at last; but the Russians are secretly rearming while America goes the other way. Seizing on a Russian fleet P.R. disaster in San Diego, Texas’ governor declares that should the fleet come towards Houston on its intended goodwill mission, the Lone Star State will secede from the Union. With a story focused largely on Houston’s downtown and Ship Channel, the second half of the book soars, featuring a final confrontation in which the Texans unleash their greatest source of military pride on the invaders.
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