September 05, 2013
There are six sisters in this story, and one brother, all educated in a one-room schoolhouse, eighty children and one teacher. It’s a story that comes from slavery, which Americans don’t like to talk about any more.
September 05, 2013
We’ve been spotted by two of Houston’s finest. Not that spotting us was all that difficult, even at 2:00 A.M. We’re four white guys in a part of town where we obviously don’t belong, in a gated apartment complex beyond which are heavily fortified convenience stores, junk yards, and rundown beauty parlors advertising various styles of hair weaves. 
September 05, 2013
The first thing Brooks County lead investigator Danny Davila wants to know is whether I have a weak stomach. He shows me pages from “the Dead Book”—inside are dozens of laminated photographs of the remains of the thirty-four undocumented immigrants who have died in the county’s scrub brush so far that year. Then, a rancher called in a Code 500; the thirty-fifth body of the year has been discovered. If my stomach is up to it, I can accompany Davila on the retrieval.
September 04, 2013
It’s unnecessary to explain, to anyone who knew Will Campbell, why he was one of the most remarkable and valuable Southerners of his generation. Mention his name and his parishioners will just grin and shake their heads. But for those who never had the privilege of meeting him, it’s important to place him in a proper context, free of stereotypes and received ideas.
September 01, 2013
The panties disappeared in mid-February, much to my disappointment. For almost a year, I’d been renting an inexpensive office on the second floor of an old 1950s commercial building outside of town, and I entered next to the storefront of a defunct lingerie shop. The owners were trying to sell the whole business, so the stock remained on display, untouched, frozen in time behind the big plate glass windows like an aquarium full of colorful, exotic fish.
September 04, 2013
On a Monday morning in early March, after the annual Shrine circus has wrapped up a three-day run, James Plunkett is trying to go home. It’s cold and windy with a scent of manure in the air—the calling card of eight tigers, two bears, two camels, one elephant, and about a dozen each of horses and dogs.
September 04, 2013
“I think they take a little more courting than a regular dog,” says Colonel John Norwood, an officer at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola. “I don’t know if they’re less sociable, or if it’s just something that’s bred into the wolves.”
September 04, 2013
Call me deranged or a sad sack, but that’s what I imagined when I caught sight of him before the train entered the tunnel and a surge of ear-popping darkness threw his image against the soft agony of my own life. That’s the way I thought back then. Even a beautiful sight—a man alone on the river bearing up against the elements, daring nature—delivered to me a sense of doom.
June 04, 2015

Among my mother’s effects that I found after her death was a datebook for the year 1944: her diary. An erratic diary keeper myself, I noted the neatness of her initial entry—even lines, full loops in cursive letters, thoughtful punctuation—a common enough trait at the start of a writerly journey, all optimism and hope and clarity, before the messiness of life intrudes.

June 15, 2015

Peg’s husband Anders watches the boys smoke, says something, makes them smile, or are they grimacing a little? Has he cornered them or asked something off-color, personal—You getting any? That sort of thing. She’s heard his coarse approximations of street talk, young talk. She’s heard him ask girls, You ever been in love?