Before Frederick Law Olmsted became a landscape architect—New York’s Central Park is among his famous creations—he was a successful journalist, and his 1853 A Journey Through Texas includes a delightful section on his impressions of early San Antonio. William Sidney Porter, better known as O. Henry, had a newspaper office in San Antonio for a while. Two collections of his short stories, Texas Stories and Time to Write, include a number of pieces set in the city, among them “A Fog in Santone,” “The Higher Abdication,” “Hygeia at the Solito,” “Seats of the Haughty,” and “The Missing Chord.”
O. Henry wasn’t very successful at promoting his newspaper Rolling Stone (no, not that one) in San Antonio during the 1890s, but there’s a lively literary scene in town today. Resident writers include Jay Brandon, whose Loose Among the Lambs kept San Antonians busy trying to guess the identities of the local figures they (erroneously) thought had been fictionalized therein. His most San Antonio-centric work is Milagro Lane, which the author describes as “part mystery, part insider’s guide.” Rick Riordan’s Tequila Red kicked off his Tres Navarre series, hard-boiled detective novels set in a seamy San Antonio. A finalist for the National Book Award, John Phillip Santos’s memoir, Places Left Unfinished at the Time of Creation, traces the San Antonio author’s roots back to Mexico through dreams, myths, and other poetic devices. (Look for Santos’s words on the art installations in San Pedro Creek Culture Park.) The poet laureate of San Antonio from 2012 to 2014 and of Texas from 2015 to 2016, Carmen Tafolla focuses on Chicana culture in books such as the early Get Your Tortillas Together to the more recent This River Here: Poems of San Antonio.
For in depth, nonfictional takes on the city, consider works by Lewis F. Fisher such as Saving San Antonio: The Precarious Preservation of a Heritage; Crown Jewel of Texas: Story of San Antonio’s River; and Chili Queens, Hay Wagons, and Fandangos: The Spanish Plazas in Frontier San Antonio.
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