An Evening with Stephen Harrigan

We had such a wonderful time celebrating the release of Stephen Harrigan’s newest book, They Came From The Sky, last Tuesday. This was the first in-house party the University of Texas Press has hosted at their lovely offices, and we were thrilled to partner with them to fill their warm, inviting space with so many Festival friends and book lovers.

Stephen Harrigan, award-winning author of several highly acclaimed books, including The Gates of the Alamo and Remember Ben Clayton, and a long time, beloved friend of the Texas Book Festival, is at work on his most ambitious project to date: a sweeping, full-length new history of Texas, to be published by the University of Texas Press.

While we eagerly await the release of this epic new telling of the Lone Star State, Harrigan and UT Press have given us a glimpse of what’s to come with the publication of They Came from the Sky: The Spanish Arrive in Texas. This slender volume brings us close to the beginning, tracing the state’s native inhabitants, prehistoric flint producers, early traders, the Spanish expeditions of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and much more. The rich early history of Texas is brought to life with Harrigan’s personable style as he crafts a lively, visceral story from historical fact and tremendous in-depth research.

Texas Monthly recently published an excerpt of They Came From the Skywhich tells of the first meeting of the Karankawas and the Spanish:

On a freezing November day in 1528, on some narrow, windswept stretch of—or near—Galveston Island, a hunting party of three Karankawa men encountered a shocking apparition. It was a man, or at least something like a man, carrying a pot he had stolen from their village while all the people were away…..There were forty other men there, sprawled in the sand around a driftwood fire.


photo credit: Andy Sieverman

Harrigan spoke with UT Press editor (and trendsetter) Casey Kittrell about the process of writing this massive history of our state. Harrigan noted that his style of history-telling is, “Very character driven, very event driven.” He discussed how, when researching, he looks for the voices of the people who were actually there and alive at the time, digging down through layers of documentation and previous research until he’s satisfied that he’s come to the core of the experience, setting, character or event he’s working to describe. He also noted that this is not an Anglo history; the history of Texas is the history of several different cultures and voices.

We cannot wait to read the full result of Harrigan’s thorough efforts. In the mean time, we’re grateful to the University of Texas Press for providing this preview with They Came From the Sky.

Many thanks to Stephen Harrigan, the fine folks at UT Press, and everyone who joined us to celebrate Harrigan’s work and learn more than we thought we knew about Texas. Many thanks, also, to Live Beverages  for providing tasty and refreshing beverages. Cheers to our Lone Star State! Now, Steve, get back to work. We want to know more.


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