My First Texas Book Festival



Never having been to the Texas Book Festival before, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Would it be worth my time to drive from Dallas to Austin and spend the night? What about all the logistics? I downloaded the nifty app to my phone and set my personal schedule. A few panels and people I wanted to see overlapped, but I bookmarked them anyway and decided to make the decision at the time–a good plan.

UnknownThe first session I attended was an enjoyable panel on the book Of All the Gin Joints: Stumbling through Hollywood History in the Capitol. I had not been to the Capitol in about 15 years, but I remembered the underground extension and the layout. Lots of the smaller sessions were in the hearing rooms that looked like small courtrooms. The big names were going to be in the House and Senate chambers. Really, the Capitol was perfect for this kind of event. To get to the House and Senate chambers, you had to go to the third floor to sit in the gallery. If you had a Fast Pass ($100 for 2 people — a “donation” to the Festival), you could go to the second floor and be admitted to the House or Senate floor and sit at one of the desks of a representative or senator. Outside, on the streets surrounding the Capitol, were tents set up for vendors, music, children’s activities, food, and large tents for Kirkus Reviews, C-SPAN, etc.


–Martin Amis from

 Right after my first panel, I headed to the House Chamber to see Martin Amis. I wasn’t sure how crowded one of the big name sessions might be. The chamber was not full, but was very close to being full. I enjoyed Mr. Amis being interviewed by Greg Cowles of the New York Times Book Review. Mr. Amis’ new book is entitled The Zone of Interest and is his second book about the Holocaust. Everything Mr. Amis said was carefully thought out and spoken deliberately. I knew seeing Mr. Amis would be a once in a lifetime opportunity. Later, I went to a panel on autobiographical fiction, mainly because Dallas/Denton’s Merritt Tierce was on the panel. Her book, which I am currently reading, is called Love Me Back and is the story of a waitress who works at a five-star Dallas steakhouse/restaurant. Ms. Tierce admits the story is semi-autobiographical, but that does not mean that all characters are easily recognizable. Most are composites of many people she worked with through the years as she served at various restaurants. The main character, Marie, is on a self-destructive path—I am anxious to see what choices Marie makes. Following is a picture of author Merritt Tierce from her website


The next day I thoroughly enjoyed 92-year-old director Norman Lear talk9781594205729_custom-6f2e6363fae667fcaaec4c67b86f8b91f7143b17-s99-c85 about his new book, Even This I Get to Experience. Mr. Lear does not seem to be as old as he is. I would have thought he was in his late 70s or early 80s. He was very sharp and funny as ever. He talked about the All in the Family characters and actors, as well as many for his many other sitcoms. I was glad he talked about Bea Arthur as Maude. A few years ago I think I watched every Maude episode in order. That show was way ahead of its time, as were most of Mr. Lear’s shows. Mr. Lear spent a lot of time talking about Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, one of the best shows ever on TV.

TheOldNeighborhoodCOVERThe last small panel session I went to was entitled “Growing Up Fast.” Three authors and a moderator were on this panel. I attended this one because author Bill Hillmann was on the panel. He is the author of The Old Neighborhood, a book about a gang member growing up in Chicago. I haven’t read the book yet, but I bought and had the book signed by the effervescent and affable Mr. Hillmann. He is the bull runner who was gored by a bull just recently last July in Pamplona, Spain during the San Fermin fiesta. Chatting with Mr. Hillmann and his wife, Enid, was a very pleasant way to end the Texas Book Festival.


–author Bill Hillmann