A Sooner-born, Longhorn-raised writer offers a rich selection of pieces originally published in Texas Monthly and elsewhere.
A veteran screenwriter and novelist (The Gates of the Alamo, 2000, etc.), Harrigan displays in abundance the trait all great essayists possess: curiosity. Not to mention an enviable travel budget. The peripatetic writer is everywhere: Big Bend National Park, a Mexican desert, Padre Island, the Houston Zoo, Galveston Bay, Rocky Mountain and Mesa Verde national parks, and Monte Carlo, among others. He assembles natural history, some quirky characters and details (on Padre Island he spotted a decapitated turtle), and some personal history (we gradually learn about his boyhood, youth, college years and more), and he displays throughout an appealingly self-deprecating voice. The early sections deal principally with his travels—including the bizarre story of a tiger’s killing a zoo employee—and later sections focus on history. He offers a grim piece about Cortés in Mexico (read this one on an empty stomach) and a good summary about the Stone Age man found in that alpine glacier in 1991. He enlightens us about the Comanche, who survive but have no reservation, and visits the ruins of Jack London’s Wolf House. He also dives into the whirlpool of controversy about the death of Davy Crockett, enlightens us about the filming of Lonesome Dove and notes a family connection to outlaw Frank James. The final pieces are reflective ones about Texas, homesickness and his screenwriting career.
Like sitting next to a loquacious, genial and informative passenger on a slow trans-Texas train.