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Excerpt: Lamar’s Folly by Jeffrey Stuart Kerr

LAMAR’S FOLLY

by
Jeffrey Stuart Kerr
  Genre: Texas Historical Fiction
Publisher: Texas Tech University Press
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Date of Publication: November 15, 2017
Number of Pages: 320
Mirabeau Lamar seeks nothing less than a Texas empire that will dominate the North American continent. Brave exploits at the Battle of San Jacinto bring him rank, power, and prestige, which by 1838 propel him to the presidency of the young Republic of Texas and put him in position to achieve his dream. Edward Fontaine, who works for and idolizes Lamar, vows to help his hero overcome all obstacles, including the substantial power of Sam Houston. Houston and Lamar are not only political, but personal enemies, and each man regards the other with contempt.

Edward’s slave Jacob likes and admires his master, but cannot share his hatred of Sam Houston. The loyalties of both Jacob and Edward are tested by President Lamar’s belief that a righteous cause justifies any means necessary to sustain it. Lamar becomes infatuated with a married woman who resembles his deceased wife. He sends the woman’s husband on the ill-fated Santa Fe Expedition, the failure of which humiliates Lamar and provokes a crisis in his relationship with Edward, who in turn jeopardizes the trust that Jacob has placed in him. Edward laments the waste of Lamar’s genius, while Jacob marvels at the hypocrisy of both men.
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Excerpt from

Lamar’s Folly

By Jeffrey Stuart Kerr

Some say that if Mirabeau Lamar hadn’t shot the buffalo he wouldn’t have become president. Others maintain that the incident never happened. Both are nonsense: the one because a man of Lamar’s talents requires no parlor tricks to gain high position, the other because I was there and saw the thing for myself.

That day began so many years ago with the usual breakfast of cold beef and hot coffee. We sat crammed together on crude benches around what passed for a table in Jake Harrell’s cabin. Jake called it a table, but the rest of us recognized it as a salvaged wagon bed balanced upon a pair of saw horses. We dared not set our coffee mugs upon this weathered relic, so uneven had the numerous dents and gaps in the warped oak boards rendered its surface. “It’s a table as fine as any you’ll dine on out here in the wilderness,” insisted Jake. “Besides, how many woodshops did you pass on your way here?”

The answer to that question was none. Jake’s was one of only four or five houses in all of Waterloo, a meager unincorporated village squatting on the muddy north bank of the upper Colorado River. They really weren’t houses either, just the usual drab rectangular log pens thrown up by Texas settlers in those days. Jake had constructed two such pens side by side with a dogtrot in between. One pen provided sleeping quarters for him, his wife, Mary, and his passel of children; the other served as living room, dining room, kitchen, and, as Jake described it, “bawdy house.” “Me and Mary couldn’t hardly touch each other before I added that bedroom,” he said proudly. “Now we can squirrel ourselves away over there whenever we want. Yes, sir, the best thing I ever did was add that room.”

Nine of us crowded around the table as Mary hurried to keep our coffee fresh. Jake, Mirabeau, and I occupied one side. Willis Avery, James Rice, and two men whose names I have forgotten sat opposite us. Young Dan Hornsby and his brother Malcolm squeezed in at either end. A scent of sweat mixed with horse dung drifted through the air as we ate. Though the dawn had barely broken, damp warmth already permeated the room.

“Damn, it’s hot,” said Avery.

“Watch your mouth, Avery,” said Rice. “Jake’s wife is standing right there.”

“If Willis wants to run his damned mouth, it’s all right with me,” Mary said.

Everybody but Mirabeau laughed. And, since he was the nation’s vice president, his silence weighed heavier than the heat; the laughter quickly died.

The door to the cabin suddenly burst open. Several men spilled their coffee, while Dan Hornsby nearly fell off his stool. “God Almighty, son,” Jake hollered at the small boy standing in the doorway. “Is the devil on your heels?”

“Pa! Pa!” the boy shouted. “Buffalo! Thousands of ’em!”

We rushed outside to find that the boy spoke truthfully. Beyond the woods enclosing the settlement black splotches dotted the normally verdant grassland stretching toward the horizon. Clouds of dust rose as gray patches into the sky. A low, soft rumbling echoed against the distant hills as tens of thousands of the great beasts lumbered by. They splashed mindlessly across the Colorado, churning that stream into a sea of mud. A sudden breeze carrying their stench had me longing for the less offensive odor of the cabin interior.

“Come on, boys!” Rice said enthusiastically. “Grab your pistols and let’s have at ’em!”

“Pistols?” I asked in surprise.

“Yeah, pistols,” Dan Hornsby answered. “It’s more sporting than rifles.”

“I have no pistols,” I said. But no one cared about my armaments, so I ran to the pen and hastily readied my horse. I fetched my rifle from the house, checked its load, and leapt into the saddle. “Let’s go, Spirit,” I cried, and the wind whipped my face.

We raced away from the river up a muddy ravine into the nearest herd. Two or three men fired pistols, for everyone save me seemed to be so armed. A beast twitched but did not fall. Others already lay dead. When I squeezed the trigger on my rifle the blast almost knocked me from the saddle. As I slowed to regain my balance Mirabeau raced past, spraying me with grass and mud. He pulled a pistol from his belt.


Jeffrey Stuart Kerr is the author of several titles, including Seat of Empire: The Embattled Birth of Austin, Texas, winner of the Summerfield G. Roberts Award and a True West Best Western Book.




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Excerpt: The Adventures of Miss Vulpe by Maria Elena Sandovici

THE ADVENTURES OF
MISS VULPE
A Coming of Age Story for Adults
by
MARIA ELENA SANDOVICI
  Genre: Contemporary / Women’s Fiction / Coming of Age
Date of Publication: April 7, 2017
Number of Pages: 160

Ana Petrescu (aka Miss Vulpe) is a troubled teenager determined to solve the mystery of her parents’ double suicide. Escaping the scrutiny of her legal guardian and the unwanted interference of several therapists, she starts looking up people from her mother’s past. Her sleuthing requires her to lie about her identity, her age, and her lack of experience with men. While impersonating Miss Vulpe is more fun than going to school, there’s bound to be trouble and heartache when her web of lies unravels.





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Excerpt from The Adventures of Miss Vulpe

By Maria Elena Sandovici


“Bucharest 2009”


I didn’t want to go to Louise’s party. But in the end I couldn’t stay away. And when I saw her I was glad to be there. She opened the door and smiled, not in surprise, but in acknowledgement that naturally, if she invited me, I’d come. She stood before me in her gold dress, almost a private joke between us, or maybe her way of making a point that she’d won an argument of sorts. She’d won more than that, in fact, she’d won a battle I didn’t want to see her lose. I was happy to see her like this, her cheeks slightly flushed, her glow restored. She was radiant again, the golden girl of days gone by, and as she grabbed my hand and led me into the room to introduce me I was mesmerized by her ability to rise from her own ashes like a phoenix. The rooms were lit by candles, jazz music was playing on an actual turntable, and the house seemed full of people, of champagne bottles, and of vintage ashtrays filled to the brims. All the windows were open, the curtains blowing in the linden-scented breeze of late spring in Bucharest, dancing dangerously close to the candles, and everything had an air of magic and mystery. I had no idea who most of the people were, or where she’d collected them from. It was one of her talents, wilting then re-blooming, dropping away from the world, then reigniting her social life out of nothing. The only one I recognized was her dentist – Louise had constant trouble with her teeth, and the man was an eminence of sorts to whom the old dragon paid a small fortune. He was supposed to be in high demand. I wouldn’t have been surprised to find out that Louise had met all the others in his waiting room, a place where even people with connections were reduced to spending hours.

I didn’t like this crowd, but I didn’t care. I didn’t like her portrait on the wall, something one of the guests, a pretentious fellow with an obvious drinking problem, had painted. I didn’t like that she hesitated in introducing me.

“This is Richard, my…” My what, Louise? My lover? “My husband’s friend, I mean my ex-husband’s friend.” I let it slide. In the end, I was grateful he wasn’t there, the current husband. By the look of things he’d been gone a long time, and I was hoping he’d stay gone forever. “Richard often comes by to see my girls,” she lied to no-one in particular as nobody was listening at this point. They were all drinking heavily. I also doubted they knew her well enough to know how many husbands or children she’d had. They were all blissfully unaware of the girls sleeping upstairs. I was sure the old dragon was of the school of thought that children should be seen and not heard, but the thing about Louise’s children was that one never got to see them either. It was as if they inhabited a parallel universe, and I knew more about them from Rogers then I ever did from visiting their mother.

I tried to put that out of my mind. I didn’t like the party, but I liked watching her. She was so in her element. She was putting on a show for her own amusement, and everything and everybody was part of it, from these people who barely knew her to the portrait on the wall that didn’t really look like her but that validated the role she chose to play that night. I knew this Louise. She was the lady of the manor, the centerpiece in a tableau vivant she had created for her own artistic satisfaction, like a director casting us all in a scene from a movie. I liked this side of her, the energy she put into weaving together elaborate fantasies to entertain herself.

She saw me watching her and she smiled. She looked pleased with how the evening was turning out, pleased with her own reflection in the mirror hanging above the improvised bar on top of the credenza. Maybe she wore the dress not so much as a symbol, but because it matched the sparkle of champagne in the glasses, and champagne seemed to be the theme of the evening. Somebody must have bribed the old dragon with several cases full of it, and Louise must have decided it needed to be consumed right away.

When people started leaving, she started making eye contact with me from across the room. I decided I’d talk her into coming back to my place. There wasn’t any way I’d spend the night here on the old dragon’s domain, and if Louise thought that was kinky in a fun way, I’d have to talk her out of it, which would be hard. But then I heard a key in the door, and Petrescu walked in. He looked like shit, pale and skinny and like he hadn’t showered or slept in a while. Louise’s face registered a look of surprise first. But then she flew to him. I felt like I’d been punched in the gut. The two other couples that were still there looked at him, and I wondered if these people even knew who he was.

“A party,” he said, “it’s nice to come home and find a party. But I have urgent business with my wife.”

The women in the room laughed, and one shoved her husband.

“Why can’t you be more like that? See, that’s hot!”

“Excuse us,” Louise said. “Please stay, we won’t be a minute.”

Among her guests, I was the only one who wanted to leave. The wife who’d misinterpreted Petrescu’s intentions with Louise was now busy using what she’d thought she’d seen to add passion to her own marriage, so she’d climbed onto her husband’s lap and was kissing him. The other couple were draining all the champagne bottles strewn across the room.

I pulled out my phone and called myself a cab. The only good thing about Louise’s guests was that they were drunk enough to be oblivious to anything that didn’t concern them. No one would notice my departure.

“Two minutes,” the dispatch said.

I got up and stepped into the hallway. I heard Louise’s heels clicking on the linoleum, saw her gold dress shimmering in the dark. She was coming from the kitchen. 

“Richard,” she said. “Don’t leave.”

She followed me outside.

“I’ll only be a minute,” she said, as if I were an unreasonable child clinging to her skirts when she needed to go use the bathroom. 


Maria Elena Sandovici lives in Houston with her dog. She travels to Bucharest often and also to Spain, but her favorite trip remains 45 South to Galveston. She has an art studio at Hardy and Nance in the Warehouse District, open the third Saturday of every month, blogs daily at havewatercolorswilltravel.com, and writes poetry in the voice of her dog. She is also the author of three previous novels about women who are struggling with finding their place in the world.




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