Austin to ATX: The Hippies, Pickers, Slackers and Geeks Who Transformed the Capital of Texas
By Joe Nick Patoski. (Texas A&M University Press, 376 pages, $32.)
Old Austinites and fans of the lively Texas capital will undoubtedly miss the bygone eras revisited in this overdue chronicle of the city's liberal cultural scene. Even more, they might also feel like they missed the boat on many occasions.
A Texas Monthly alum who has written definitive biographies on Willie Nelson, Stevie Ray Vaughan and the Dallas Cowboys, author Joe Nick Patoski doesn't just lovingly chronicle the musicians, filmmakers, foodies and other creative entrepreneurs who famously made Austin "weird" (a favorite T-shirt slogan for tourists nowadays), but he also shrewdly details how these things made Austin rich.
There's the little music festival started simply to help fill bars when all the UT students left for spring break, which became the $300 million annual revenue-generating South by Southwest brand (SXSW). There's the little hippie grocery store bought up for $13 billion by Amazon two years ago, Whole Foods, and the three-man concert company behind the Austin City Limits Festival, in which Live Nation bought a 51% share at $125 million in 2014. And of course there's the little hippie cowboy who tried but couldn't sell out to Nashville, about whom Patoski offers even more great color over what's in his Martin-guitar-thick book "Willie Nelson: An Epic Life."
Oddball filmmakers Richard Linklater, Robert Rodriguez and Mike Judge, barbecue maker Franklin's and other musicians who made it big (at least in influence) are also covered in this not-too-tediously informative, dryly witty, tastefully snarky book. Unlike most old-school Austinites, Patoski doesn't seem to begrudge all the new money and newly transplanted residents overrunning the booming city these days. He just wants to give them a history lesson on all the blood ("Texas Chainsaw Massacre," anyone?), sweat and marijuana roaches buried beneath their sleek new condo and office towers.
I Know Who You Are
By Alice Feeney. (Flatiron Books, 288 pages, $27.99.)
The final word of the first chapter of "I Know Who You Are" is "gone." The final sentence of the 61st chapter is "The woman in the window is gone." Either Alice Feeney is messing with us, or the conventions of the Girl/Woman subgenre of unreliable-narrator thrillers is so deeply ingrained that she can't help dropping breadcrumbs. Feeney's follow-up to "Sometimes I Lie" very much fits the part: Initially, it seems to be a gender-switched "Gone Girl," with Aimee's husband disappearing and leaving clues that she murdered him.
Then, the winds shift in a "Woman in the Window" direction, because Aimee has a history of trauma and mental illness that makes the cops doubt her claim that she's the victim of, and witness to, a crime. Feeney knows how to keep the pages of this brisk read turning, with a cliffhanger at the end of almost every chapter, and she can insert 10 new twists faster than you can say, "Roger Ackroyd." True, plausibility is not her strong suit, but maybe "I Know Who You Are" is a promise that she'll work on that, since its last sentence is "I never make the same mistake twice."