In this lively, humorous, and often eloquent memoir, a legendary Texas journalist looks back at a career that ranged from sports writing with Bud Shrake, Dan Jenkins, and Blackie Sherrod to a twenty-five-year stint as Senior Editor at Texas Monthly.
Gary Cartwright is one of Texas’s legendary writers. In a career spanning nearly six decades, he has been a newspaper reporter, Senior Editor of Texas Monthly, and author of several acclaimed books, including Blood Will Tell, Confessions of a Washed-up Sportswriter, and Dirty Dealing. Cartwright was a finalist for a National Magazine Award for reporting excellence, and he has won several awards from the Texas Institute of Letters, including its most prestigious—the Lon Tinkle Award for lifetime achievement. His personal life has been as colorful and occasionally outrageous as any story he reported, and in this vivid, often hilarious, and sometimes deeply moving memoir, Cartwright tells the story of his writing career, tangled like a runaway vine with great friendships, love affairs, four marriages, four or five great dogs . . . looking always to explain, at least to himself, how the pattern probably makes a kind of perverted sense.
Cartwright’s career began at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and Fort Worth Press, among kindred spirits and fellow pranksters Edwin “Bud” Shrake and Dan Jenkins. He describes how the three rookie writers followed their mentor Blackie Sherrod to the Dallas Times Herald and the Dallas Morning News, becoming the “best staff of sportswriters anywhere, ever” and creating a new kind of sportswriting that “swept the country and became standard.” Cartwright recalls his twenty-five years at Texas Monthly, where he covered everything from true crime to notable Texans to Texas’s cultural oddities. Along the way, he tells lively stories about “rebelling against sobriety” in many forms, with friends and co-conspirators that included Willie Nelson, Ann Richards, Dennis Hopper, Willie Morris, Don Meredith, Jack Ruby, and countless others. A remarkable portrait of the writing life and Austin’s counterculture, The Best I Recall may skirt the line between fact and fiction, but it always tells the truth.
If you are wondering how I chose the book’s title, The Best I Recall, it’s because during its writing I used that term repeatedly while trying to dredge up scraps of autobiographical detail. Some of what you are about to read, then, is drawn, sometimes word for word, sometimes in fragments, from things I wrote years ago—which in turn sometimes depended on remembering things that happened even longer back in my fifty-year career. It’s been a jagged, uneven journey and now that I’m attempting to recall the details, I’m finding that my memory is so badly flawed that I can’t tell you what I had for breakfast. Everyone who makes it into their seventies has trouble remembering, but the problems are particularly acute when you are trying to assemble a coherent recollection of events and people and make clear what is fact and what is fiction. I have always had trouble along these lines and have concluded that fact is often indistinguishable from fiction, especially given the gravity of the human condition. This is particularly true for people like me, who have spent a fair amount of time rebelling against sobriety. Therefore, each reader must decide if the stories have a ring of truth. Try to think of it as a game where there are no losers.
“How can Cartwright have led such a memorable life and remembered it? A great life yarn by a great yarn-spinner.”
Roy Blount Jr., author of Alphabet Juice