Since 1973, one magazine has covered crime in Texas like no one else, delving deep into stories that may turn your stomach—but won't let you turn away. Texas Monthly On... Texas True Crime is a high-speed read around Texas, chasing criminals from the Panhandle to the Piney Woods, through gated mansions and trailer parks, from 1938 to the twenty-first century. The stories, which originally appeared as articles in the magazine, come from some of its most notable writers: Cecilia Ballí investigates the drug-fueled violence of the border; Pamela Colloff reports on Amarillo's lethal feud between jocks and punks; Michael Hall re-visits the legend of Joe Ball, a saloon owner who allegedly fed his waitresses to pet alligators; Skip Hollandsworth uncovers the computer nerd who became Dallas' most notorious jewel thief; and Katy Vine tracks a pair of teenage lesbians inspired by Thelma and Louise.
Texas Monthly On... Texas True Crime is the second in a series of books in which the editors of Texas Monthly offer the magazine's inimitable perspective on various aspects of Texas culture, including food, politics, travel, and music, among other topics. Texas Monthly On... Texas Women was released in 2006.
When they say everything's bigger in Texas, they mean nice things: hair, smiles, steaks, sky. Crime is too depressing to make the cut, but like it or not, our crime is not just big but bigger than anyone else's, so we may as well brag about it. Our iconic criminals are larger than life; their names are so well ingrained in our culture that they trip off the tongue without so much as a raised eyebrow: Bonnie and Clyde. Charles Whitman. Lee Harvey Oswald. Andrea Yates. Even if their acts were ghastly, they are or have been fixtures in our lives, the stuff of everyday headlines, for as long as we can remember. There's no point in ignoring them or wishing they'd go away.
From a journalistic standpoint, we couldn't, and we haven't. Since its inception, Texas Monthly has made hay of true crime, in the great tradition of our literary forebears. A previous anthology of terrific crime stories culled from our pages covered the celebrated likes of the folks mentioned above. In your hand is, to my mind, a more interesting collection. The crimes chronicled are not as widely known, nor are the perpetrators. (With the possible exception of that nice lady from Houston who ran over her adulterous husband with her Mercedes and then did it again and again, just to make sure she got him. Maybe you saw the TV movie? This stuff is entertainment gold.) But start reading about them—and then try to stop.
These twelve gems have in common what you'd want from any good read: memorable characters, a compelling plot, and rich scenes. And, of course, great writing. The authors are some of the finest, not just in Texas but anywhere.
Perhaps the finest among them—at least when a dead body is at the center of the action—is Skip Hollandsworth, one of the magazine's longtime executive editors. It's no surprise that Skip wrote half the stories in this collection. A master spinner of yarns, he mixes deep-dive reporting with stylish storytelling in a way that gets his stories consistently talked about at dinner tables and around watercoolers. He's such a favorite of our readers, and of mine, for one simple reason: He treats true crime not as pulp or pap but as serious journalism—every bit as worthy as any other genre, which it is. And also every bit as big.
Evan Smith, Editor
From the editors of Texas Monthly
Texas Monthly has chronicled life in contemporary Texas since 1973, reporting on vital issues such as politics, the environment, industry, and education, as well as music, the arts, travel, restaurants, and cultural events. The magazine has received dozens of editorial and design awards, including nine National Magazine Awards, the industry's highest honor. Evan Smith joined the staff of Texas Monthly in 1992. He became editor in 2000 and executive vice president in 2002. Smith also hosts Texas Monthly Talks, a weekly interview program that airs on all PBS stations in Texas.
"When they say everything's bigger in Texas, they mean nice things: hair, smiles, steaks, sky. Crime is too depressing to make the cut, but like it or not, our crime is not just big but bigger than anyone else's, so we may as well brag about it.... Since its inception, Texas Monthly has made hay of true crime, in the great tradition of our literary forebears.... [The] twelve gems [in this book] have in common what you'd want from any good read: memorable characters, a compelling plot, and rich scenes. And, of course, great writing. The authors are some of the finest not just in Texas but anywhere."
—Evan Smith, from the foreword