This Week’s Book Review – I’m Dr. Red Duke

I write a weekly book review for the Daily News of Galveston County. (It is not the biggest daily newspaper in Texas, but it is the oldest.) My review normally appears Wednesdays. When it appears, I post the review here on the following Sunday.

Book Review

‘I’m Dr. Red Duke’ a study in greatness

By MARK LARDAS

Oct 2, 2018

”I’m Dr. Red Duke,” by Bryant Boutwell, Texas A&M University Press, 2018, 284 pages, $30

“Red” Duke was known to millions for his televised broadcasts about medicine. He was one of those larger-than-life Texas characters who left people wondering if he was for real.

“I’m Dr. Red Duke,” a biography of Dr. James H. “Red” Duke, by Bryant Boutwell, provides the answer. Not only was he the real deal, but in many ways he was greater than his public persona.

Duke a native Texan, grew up in central Texas. He always took pride in being an Eagle Scout and an Aggie (he was a yell leader at Texas A&M). His Texas accent was authentic.

Although he planned to become an engineer, his career path changed many times. He studied to be a minister and then served as an armor officer in Germany. He finally settled on medicine after leaving the army. While finishing up his residency in Dallas, Duke was on duty at the trauma room when Kennedy was shot. Duke operated on Texas Gov. John Connolly that day, saving Connolly.

Duke went on to teaching medicine and did medical research on the East Coast before doing a two-year stint in a teaching hospital in Afghanistan. He came to Houston after his Afghanistan tour, joining the staff of the University of Texas Medical School at Houston in the late 1970s. He became one of their greatest teachers.

Among his other accomplishments, he helped start Houston’s Life Flight air ambulance service, pioneering rapid-reaction trauma surgery techniques. He became a television star, when UT used him as the spokesman for a series of medical advice programs. They became nationally syndicated and made him a household name.

Boutwell is well-positioned to write this book. He was a colleague of Duke, who worked with Duke for many years and knew him professionally and personally.

Boutwell presents Duke’s many strengths and virtues, but Boutwell also discusses Duke’s shortcomings, ones that led to two failed marriages and left Duke a prisoner of his celebrity.

“I’m Dr. Red Duke” is a focused and balanced look at one of the 20th century’s most extraordinary and talented surgeons. It is worth reading as a study in greatness.

 Mark Lardas, an engineer, freelance writer, amateur historian, and model-maker, lives in League City. His website is marklardas.com.

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This Week’s Book Review – Shep in the Victorio War

I write a weekly book review for the Daily News of Galveston County. (It is not the biggest daily newspaper in Texas, but it is the oldest.) My review normally appears Wednesdays. When it appears, I post the review here on the following Sunday.

Book Review

Neither side backs down in ‘Shep in the Victorio War’

By MARK LARDAS

Sep 11, 2018

“Shep in the Victorio War,” by Don DeNevi, Texas Review Press, 2018, 168 pages, $18.95

Shep is back. The adventures of this black German shepherd are continued in a sequel to “Faithful Shep.”

“Shep in the Victorio War,” by Don DeNevi, carries on the tale of Shep, his owners William Wiswall and Joseph Andrews and the Apache chief Victorio.

A band of Mescalero and Warm Springs Apaches led by Victorio had left their reservation. The band supported itself raiding. Cattle, horses, or wagons loaded with supplies were targets.

The previous book ended with Wiswall and Andrews recovering Shep from deep within Apache territory assisted by a Texas Ranger company and their Indian scouts. Recovering Shep required a confrontation with Victorio and his warriors, who let Shep and his rescuers escape.

“Shep in the Victorio War” opens with Wiswall and Andrews informally attached to the group that rescued Shep, Texas Rangers Company A, Frontier Battalion. They are helping out until they decide what they will do next. Just as the two decide to move on to California, they learn Company A is being mobilized to hunt down Victorio’s band. Of course, they choose to stay until this job is finished.

The Rangers join what became known as the Victorio War. A three-year effort running from 1879 through 1881, it involved finding Victorio’s band to either force them back to the reservation or kill them. This book captures the war’s end-game.

DeNevi, through the eyes of Wiswall and Andrews, takes readers into that war. Company A participates in the chase for Victorio in Texas and later (through the invitation of the local governor) into Mexico. DeNevi also shows the conflict from Victorio’s view. He and his band left the reservation because they were not fed (as promised) and the place was disease-ridden.

The story becomes a tragedy because both sides believe they can justify actions leading to the destruction of one of the two sides. Neither side will back down. Along the way, Wiswell, Andrews, and Shep meet a constellation of notable historical figures who participated in the campaign.

“Shep and the Victorio War” seem aimed at a young adult audience, yet will captivate all ages. It is brief, but memorable.

 Mark Lardas, an engineer, freelance writer, amateur historian, and model-maker, lives in League City. His website is marklardas.com.

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This Week’s Book Review – Battle of the Brazos

I write a weekly book review for the Daily News of Galveston County. (It is not the biggest daily newspaper in Texas, but it is the oldest.) My review normally appears Wednesdays. When it appears, I post the review here on the following Sunday.

Book Review

‘Battle of the Brazos’ a fascinating sports and mystery story

By MARK LARDAS

Aug 29, 2018

“Battle of the Brazos: A Texas Football Rivalry, a Riot, and a Murder,” by T. G. Webb, Texas A&M University Press, 2018, 184 pages, $27

Football is often compared to war.

“Battle of the Brazos: A Texas Football Rivalry, a Riot, and a Murder,” by T. G. Webb shows what happens when fans overdo that analogy.

The book relates events from an October 30, 1926, football game between Baylor University and the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas (today Texas A&M University). Interscholastic rivalry flared into a halftime riot. One A&M cadet died.

Astonishingly, the game resumed after the riot and was played to completion. More astonishingly, although the fatal assault occurred before thousands of spectators, the perpetrator was never caught. The crime was never officially solved.

Webb examines all aspects of this incident. He opens with a history of college football in Texas. This includes the increasingly bitter rivalry between two of the Texas schools on the Brazos River: Baylor and Texas A&M. The annual matchup soon became labeled “The Battle of the Brazos.” Webb shows how both student bodies took that title too seriously. In the 1920s, incidents of increasing violence accompanied games before the fatal 1926 riot.

Webb provides a detailed study of the 1926 game. He looks at the buildup to the game, taking readers through a step-by-step examination of its events, including the halftime riot. He follows this by relating the aftermath of the riot. He shows how the schools reacted and what both schools did afterward. (He also peels away some myths. Despite many stories there is no evidence the Aggies commandeered a train to take a cannon to Waco to avenge the death.)

Webb also examines the mystery of who killed the cadet, and why the culprit was never caught. He offers several reasons contributing to the crime’s going unsolved. It was suspected the assailant was related to a politically connected Waco family. State law enforcement was primitive. A hired private investigator lacked authority to compel witnesses to speak. He came close to identifying the assailant, but lacked sufficient proof to obtain an indictment.

“Battle of the Brazos” is a fascinating mix of sports history and true crime mystery. Webb’s book offers insight to a bygone era in Texas sports.

Mark Lardas, an engineer, freelance writer, amateur historian, and model-maker, lives in League City. His website is marklardas.com.

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This Week’s Book Review – Shale Boom: The Barnett Shale Play and Fort Worth

I write a weekly book review for the Daily News of Galveston County. (It is not the biggest daily newspaper in Texas, but it is the oldest.) My review normally appears Wednesdays. When it appears, I post the review here on the following Sunday.

Book Review

‘Shale Boom’ an even-handed look at fracking

By MARK LARDAS

July 24, 2018

“Shale Boom: The Barnett Shale Play and Fort Worth,” by Diana Davids Hinton, Texas Christian University Press, 2018, 192 pages, $30

Twenty years ago, the United States was running out of oil and gas. Fracking changed everything. Today, the United States is the world’s largest producer of petroleum products.

“Shale Boom: The Barnett Shale Play and Fort Worth,” by Diana Davids Hinton tells the history of a key part of that transformation. It examines how the Barnett Shale helped trigger the fracking revolution, and explores its consequences.

Hinton puts fracking in its historical context. It was not new. Some form of fracturing was done as early as the 1920s. This included injecting liquids into wells under high pressure — hydraulic fracturing. Hinton reveals what was new. The Barnett Shale is a large but narrow layer of oil bearing rock beneath Fort Worth and the area west of it. Fracking techniques of the 1980s and 1990s meant wells failed to yield economic levels of gas and oil.

George Mitchell owned lease rights in the area. Hinton shows how the Galveston-born Mitchell financed new fracking techniques. The new technology unlocked the Barnett Shale, producing unprecedented levels of natural gas. Directional drilling techniques developed during this century’s first decade multiplied yields.

It kick-started a shale gas boom around Fort Worth. Much of the best yield area was under Fort Worth, complicating things. What followed included some craziness of the type accompanying every oil boom. Hinton traces the action.

Hinton looks at the impact urban drilling had on both drillers and residents. She also examines the bust inevitably following a boom, the backlash against drilling, and the impact of environmental concerns fueled by fear of fracking.

Hinton is refreshingly even-handed. She looks at both the benefits and costs (societal and environmental as well as financial) of drilling and the hydrocarbon industry. She also explores both the benefits and excesses of environmental opposition to fracking. Hinton is unafraid to expose the follies and dodgy activities of individuals in both drilling and the environmental movement.

Hinton closes with an examination of the impacts of fracking — long and short term — around Fort Worth, and its global implications. “Shale Boom” a fascinating and balanced look at what technology revolutions yield.

 Mark Lardas, an engineer, freelance writer, amateur historian, and model-maker, lives in League City. His website is marklardas.com.

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This Week’s Book Review – The Downfall of Galveston’s May Walker Burleson

I write a weekly book review for the Daily News of Galveston County. (It is not the biggest daily newspaper in Texas, but it is the oldest.) My review normally appears Wednesdays. When it appears, I post the review here on the following Sunday. (Or Monday, if I spent Sunday traveling.)

Seawriter

Book Review

Book captures early 1900s era Galveston perfectly

By MARK LARDAS

Apr 24, 2018

“The Downfall of Galveston’s May Walker Burleson: Texas Society Marriage and Carolina Murder Scandal,” by T. Felder Dorn, History Press, 2018, 192 pages, $21.99

There is something distinctive about a society murder when it involves a Texan.

“The Downfall of Galveston’s May Walker Burleson: Texas Society Marriage and Carolina Murder Scandal,” by T. Felder Dorn, demonstrates that. The book tells the story of May Walker Burleson’s murder of her ex-husband’s second wife.

Born in 1888, May Jennie Walker belonged to Galveston’s prominent Walker family. She grew up a member of Galveston’s aristocracy.

In 1908 she married Richard Coke Burleson. It seemed a fairy-tale marriage. Burleson came from of one of the most important families in San Saba County. A 1906 graduate of West Point, he was starting a prestigious career as an officer in the United States Army.

Dorn shows how May Walker Burleson had it all: looks, brains, charm and spirit. In 1913, she was Grand Marshal of the Woman Suffrage Parade of 1913 in Washington, DC. Later, she became an archeologist, noted for her work studying ancient Mexico.

Richard Coke Burleson’s career also prospered. By the mid-1930s he was a colonel. His wife boosted his career; he supported her activities. They seemed the ideal couple.

Yet Dorn reveals cracks in the marriage. Richard wanted children. May did not. She spent more time with her mother and pursuing her other interests than she was spending with her husband. In turn, he began several affairs with other women. Each accused the other of egregious behavior. She claimed he struck her. He stated she threatened to shoot him.

When he decided to seek divorce, she fought. She liked the status and prestige of being an officer’s wife. A bitter three-year legal struggle ensued, blighting his career, and shaking her sanity. Once the divorce was granted Richard Coke Burleson married his current woman.

May Walker Burleson decided to rid the world of the other women — so her husband would return to her. She shot the new wife, was caught in the act, and convicted.

Dorn puts together the tale of two unlikable people in a manner that catches the reader’s interest. A meticulously researched work, “The Downfall of Galveston’s May Walker Burleson” captures its era perfectly.

Mark Lardas, an engineer, freelance writer, amateur historian, and model-maker, lives in League City. His website is marklardas.com.

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