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Scene of the Crime

Scene of the Crime exhibition title

SEPTEMBER 2, 2003 —FEBRUARY 29, 2004

Exhibition material also includes a comprehensive bibliography (pdf) of Texas-based crime fiction.

“Whodunit” in the Lone Star State? Find out as the Southwestern Writers Collection at Texas State investigates Scene of the Crime: Mystery/Detective Fiction from Texas.

Dozens of authors are spotlighted in this sleuth-centered exhibit, and their tales run the gamut from Jim Thompson’s vintage Texas by the Tail to recent murder and mayhem by Kinky Friedman, Rick Riordan, Mary Willis Walker, and former Texas State professor Susan Wittig Albert.

Also on view are manuscripts and memorabilia from mystery/detective writers whose archives are held in the Southwestern Writers Collection, among them Neal Barrett, Jr., James Crumley, Joe Lansdale, and Jesse Sublett.

On the 7th Floor of the Alkek Library, the Southwestern Writers Collection is usually open daily during semester sessions (closed holidays)--visitors are asked to call ahead for hours: 512.245.2313. Admission to this exhibit is free.

Scene of the Crime: Mystery/Detective Fiction from Texas, curated, designed and mounted by Steve Davis, Assistant Curator of the Southwestern Writers Collection, will be on display through February 29, 2004.

“Murder, They Wrote” describes much of the work being done by Texas novelists today. The state provides a never-ending selection of distinctive settings for suspense fiction, and writers are quick to take advantage, placing their crime-solvers in Houston, Dallas, Austin, San Antonio, Galveston, El Paso, the Lower Rio Grande Valley, and dozens of rural hamlets.

Scene of the Crime shows how Texas-based mysteries often make good use of a local setting, bringing a realistic “sense of place” alive in this genre fiction. The Southwestern Writers Collection exhibit "tours" the five regions of Texas, pinning authors and their protagonists in South Texas (San Antonio and the Lower Rio Grande Valley), Central Texas (Austin and the hill country), North Texas (Dallas-Fort Worth), East Texas (Houston and the Piney Woods), and West Texas (El Paso, Big Bend, and the Panhandle).

The variety of mystery/detective fiction in Texas is just as astonishing. No longer is crime fiction the province of jaded private eyes. Sleuths are just as likely to be funeral directors, feminist attorneys, Christian businessmen, chefs, ex-football players, English professors, graduate students, journalists, musicians, boatmen, librarians, housewives, bankers, birdwatchers, and romance novelists. There’s even a stand-up comic and an herb-store owner among the sleuthhounds.

The Scene of the Crime line-up of covers testifies to the range of plots in which these characters find themselves embroiled, with titles like Bad Chili, Death by Dressage, Rock Critic Murders, An Unthymely Death and Other Garden Mysteries, The Prairie Chicken Kill, Mucho Mojo, Gone Fishin’, and By Hook or By Book.

Of course the Lone Star State also features prominently, in the likes of Austin City Blue, Houston in the Rearview Mirror, Death on the Riverwalk, Deliver Me from Dallas, The Sheriff and the Panhandle Murders, and Found Dead in Texas.

An annotated bibliography (pdf) compiled specifically to accompany the exhibit points mystery fans to hundreds of must-read yarns set in Texas. The list, like the exhibit, is structured by region, and goes on to suggest interesting readings about the genre itself in a “further study” section. Prepared by Assistant Curator Steve Davis and Dr. Rollo K. Newsom, Professor Emeritus at Texas State.