Photo by Marco Grob

Acclaimed author Daniel Silva's latest thriller, Portrait of an Unknown Woman, has just been released, and if the past is precedent, there's no reason it won't become a New York Times bestseller — like so many others in Silva's Gabriel Allon series.

Yet, there's something different about this particular Gabriel Allon novel, in which the protagonist, the former art restorer turned director of the Israeli intelligence service and assassin, finds himself living quietly with his family in Venice, enjoying retirement and trying to put his violent past behind him. And then, that painting turns up. Is it real or a clever forgery? Can Gabriel figure it out before it ruins his friend's life?

Silva may answer some of those question when he makes a highly anticipated appearance Dallas this month. Local fans can catch him in discussion at the Aaron Family JCC on Monday, July 25. (Tickets, $40, are available here and include a signed copy of the book.)

Then he'll head to Houston, where he'll be in conversation with Jean Becker, former chief of staff to George H.W. Bush, at the Evelyn Rubenstein Jewish Community Center on Wednesday, July 27.

CultureMap caught up with the best-selling author to talk his new book and being back on the road again, after previous virtual events.

CultureMap: You're back on tour. How excited are you to be traveling again?

Daniel Silva: I'm very excited to do it. We thought about it very carefully and looked at the [COVID] numbers, and put some protocols in place. In its own weird way, though, it's still going to seem sort of virtual in that I can't sit and have a signing. That's the one big component that we'll be missing, those moments with readers, which is a shame, because hat's what I like best.

CM: As a reader, this book felt different. Maybe not so much a transition into something that Gabriel's going do next in his life, but certainly this was Gabriel in a whole different world. Did you think that you were going to get to this kind of a point, when you made your assassin an art restorer and a painter?

DS: Yeah. I actually wanted to get him to this point a long time ago, that the series would be much more art based than it became. My editor at the time really wanted him to be more violent character and to mix it up with these really, really bad, bad guys. I let [Gabriel] get drawn into the global war on terror.

From there, he got drawn into his long-running duel with the Russians and that really changed the series. I mean, Moscow Rules [published in 2008] was a very important book for me. This is what I always had in mind for the series as the final act, that I was going to return Gabriel to the art world.

The first thing that I wanted to do with this novel is to just sort of wall it off from Israeli intelligence. He's on his own, and I just enjoyed writing this book so much.

CM: Of course, Gabriel has had capers that involve the art world before now.

DS: Yes, I had books that started in the art world and then branched into, for instance, the Iran nuclear program. But, this one stayed in the art world and I did something that I wanted to do for a very long time.

CM: When we talked last year, we spoke about your love of classical music, which informed what you did in The Cellist. Are you an art lover, too?

DS: I wouldn't have handled [Gabriel] the way I have if I wasn't. Writing the series gave me a sort of an amateur master's degree. I'm fascinated by the business of art and I'm really fascinated by the dirty side of the art business that I've explored in the past.

CM: And that is where Portrait of an Unknown Woman is set.
Yes. There are a lot of very, very, very fine and very reputable art dealers and galleries. But there are a lot of dirty, disreputable art dealers out there, too. And they will sell anything if they think they can make money. That's something that the book explores.

Money has always been at the heart of art, going back to the Renaissance, when Italian noblemen would hire artists to paint their portraits or their palazzos. And, of course, there's the relationship between art and the Catholic Church, which hired artists to decorate their churches.

CM: Did it feel different writing this novel, as opposed to the others in the series?

DM: I very deliberately reset character. In the first chapters, his wife won't let him work. She sends him out to explore [Venice]. So, he wanders the city and visits paintings he's restored there. And he is able to let go of these nights of blood and fire and he changes; his physical appearance changes a little bit.

I love the subtle changes that I was able to bring to the character. I love the fact that humor that found its way into the book totally by accident. I did not realize that it was going to such a rocket journey through the art world.

CM: What should fans expect when they come and see you in conversation in-person after all these virtual visits?

DS: I hope that it's both a relaxing, funny, and informative evening. It's gonna be interesting. You know, I literally have not been in public in three years.

Photo by Dana Driensky

Strength and faith underline uplifting annual Dallas luncheon

Notes on Hope

You could have heard a pin drop as bestselling novelist and essayist Anne Lamott shared her experiences with the captivated crowd at the Hyatt Regency Dallas during the recent Nexus Recovery Center spring luncheon.

Lamott — who is the author of seven novels, several bestselling nonfiction books, and numerous collections of autobiographical essays — led a forthright conversation about her own experiences with addiction and recovery, serving as inspiration for the group.

But before the illuminating talk, luncheon chair Chris Ozley and Nexus executive director Rebecca Crowell welcomed the crowd with a brief history of the Women's Auxiliary, which is celebrating its 23rd year and has raised over $3.5 million to date.

Janina Solomon, Women's Auxiliary of Nexus president, then took the podium and declared, "I am living proof that recovery works," stating that she has been sober for 13 years. Former luncheon chair Lindsay Billingsly joined to run the live auction and raffle before a former Nexus client named Lisa gave an earnest and profound testimony of how crucial the nonprofit is to the women of Dallas.

The comprehensive Nexus program includes prevention and intervention, detoxification, residential recovery treatment, early childhood and high school education onsite, after-school and summer programs for school-aged children, life and parenting skills training, outpatient care, and alumni programs.

Honorary chairs Carolyn and Rick Waghorne announced that the day's luncheon also featured a wonderful milestone: the first teen client in recovery at Nexus had graduated from high school.

In 2018, Nexus Recovery Center served 1,969 women and teens and 341 children, including 64 Nexus-born babies. Membership in the Women's Auxiliary is open to the public, and members work to stimulate public awareness and help in the financial support of Nexus' services and projects.

Janina Solomon, Sarah Brown

Janina Solomon, Sarah Brown
Photo by Dana Driensky
Janina Solomon, Sarah Brown
Photo by Rambo

Dallas entrepreneurs embark on new kind of entertainment venture

Story Time

Few people will be upset to close the book on 2016, but for Deep Vellum founder and local publisher Will Evans, it’s been quite a year. Having made a success of his first independent bookstore and expanded his roster of international authors, Evans could have rested on his literary laurels. But instead, a fortuitous meeting with film producer Dallas Sonnier sparked an entirely new entertainment venture, and the duo are set to make a beautiful match between audio, books, and film with their new company Cinestate.

Recently wrapping up his Los Angeles-based production company Caliber Media, Sonnier decided to return to his hometown to raise his family. A casual meeting with Evans through mutual friends made the pair realize they had in common a love of universally intriguing tales.

“We realized in five minutes we shared a vision of taking awesome stories, books, and movies and getting them in front of as many people as possible,” says Evans. “Dallas asked, ‘What would you do if you have unlimited options?’ and I said I’d find a way to start making audio adaptations and films [of Deep Vellum books].”

“I don’t know the first thing about book publishing, but I have sold several books of my clients when I was a manager in Los Angeles, and I felt there was a disconnect between the book publishers and movie producers,” adds Sonnier. “There was no reason they shouldn’t be working together to boost the story audience.”

Dallas’ location smack in the middle between the New York-based publishing world and the Hollywood film industry made it the perfect place to explore such an ambitious venture.

“There’s a reason why these industries have never collaborated — they’re so far away,” says Evans. “The thing about Dallas we both love is how interesting the city is and how connected we are to the world — we’re closer to Mexico City than we are New York, and our audiences are international.”

For their first project, Cinestate will release what the two call an “Audiostate” of the book The Narrow Caves, to be distributed through Audible.com and Amazon. A natural evolution from a traditional audio book, it will feature a two-hour running time (rather than a typical nine or 10 hours), with top-notch performances from the likes of narrator Will Patton, Vincent D’Onofrio, and Wyatt Russell, plus full sound design and a musical score.

A fresh way to get never-produced film scripts adapted for the public, each Audiostate is like an “ear movie” that Cinestate founders anticipate will set a new standard in the entertainment industry. All of Cinestate’s three divisions — audio, film, and books — will create a home for authors working in all genres, giving them input on everything from book cover art to screenplay development. Writers who’ve had a taste of the film industry are already responding to the company’s literary-friendly focus.

Sonnier and Evans anticipate a hit film could have a novel or an audio experience sequel, carrying the story forward into another dimension. The Narrow Caves, penned by author S. Craig Zahler, will eventually hit the silver screen, but Cinestate’s first feature, set for fall 2017, is Zahler’s Brawl in Cell Block 99, starring Vince Vaughn, Jennifer Carpenter, and Don Johnson. His novel Hug Chickenpenny: The Panegyric of an Anomalous Child will come out around the same time from the company’s literary division.

“The ultimate goal is to create the binge watching/listening/consuming experience for story lines in a story universe across the different platforms,” says Sonnier.

“We’ve got some big stuff on the horizon, “ adds Evans, who has turned over the day-to-day operations of Deep Vellum to the company’s new executive director Anne Hollander, so that he can focus on Cinestate.

“We’re not in the business of leaking information, but it’s going to be really exciting with some mainstream Hollywood actors, and some cult classics. It’s an honor to work in a whole new medium and build out this new world.”

Photo via Caroljadams.com

Dallas author’s landmark book finds new audience after 25 years

Author Interview

Author Carol J. Adams body-checked the meat-eating world in 1990 with the publication of her classic book, The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory, which explores the relationship between men, women, and meat. Upon its publication, the New York Times called it "a bible of the vegan community."

With vegan dining now a rising trend, Adams has released a new 25th-anniversary edition of her groundbreaking work. She'll do a reading at the Wild Detectives bookstore on October 12, and have a conversation with artist Pamela Nelson.

Her book was among the first to suggest that masculinity and meat-eatingare intertwined.

"Maleness, to a degree, is being defined by meat-eating," Adams says. "There are all these ways of saying men must eat meat. If a man is wearing a pink sweater and bringing out appetizers, he's not part of the man clan."

In her book, Adams argues that women and animals are exploited, whether it's restaurant ads depicting a pig as a female, or ads with women on all fours. She also believes that the entire meat industry depends on exploiting the reproductive cycle of female animals.

Adams says that one easy thing people can do to take a stand is to follow a vegan diet. "It's a nonverbal way of rejecting a masculine culture that is steeped in violence against animals and women," she says.

What many don't know is that Adams has lived in Dallas for 29 years. Her spouse, the Rev. Bruce A. Buchanan, is executive director of The Stewpot, a homeless shelter in downtown Dallas affiliated with the First Presbyterian Church. Adams also volunteers there.

"I had been an activist and worked for a nonprofit, and my feeling was I could write anywhere," Adams says. "I remember being shocked thinking I was headed south of the Mason-Dixon line.

"But Dallas has been a great place, and there are a lot of wonderful people here progressively engaged with a vision of change. A lot of people come to Dallas to reinvent themselves. It's a very interesting city."

Adams' book was far ahead of its time. What she observed Hustlerdoing in the '80s is now part of mainstream culture.

"One of the continual fetishes of meat advertisers is showing women with big burgers stuffed in their mouths," she says. "That's representing oral sex. It's a way of humiliating women. What can we not do if our mouths are stuffed? We can't talk. We can't be active participants in political culture."

But her book also continues to be discovered by new readers every day.

"Two weeks after my book appeared, I received my first piece of fan mail," she says. "It included a photo from Sweden, a sculpture in the middle of a town in which a man is handing a woman meat and they are both naked.

"Ever since then, people have been sending me their examples of The Sexual Politics of Meat. I've received hundreds of images. People will stop and take a photo of a billboard, send me matchbooks and menus.

"Now people will tweet it, send it to me on Facebook, or e-mail. Sadly, our culture is still engaging in this."

Dallas author Carol Adams is releasing a 25th anniversary edition of her book The Sexual Politics of Meat.

Sexual Politics of Meat book cover
Photo via Caroljadams.com
Dallas author Carol Adams is releasing a 25th anniversary edition of her book The Sexual Politics of Meat.

Behold the stars on the bill for 25th season of Dallas Museum of Art series

Arts & Letters Live Turns 25

For its 25th anniversary season, Dallas Museum of Art's Arts & Letters Live series is stacking the roster with celeb names from the performing arts and literary worlds. New York Times bestselling authors, Pulitzer Prize winners and finalists, Tony Award winners, and Emmy Award winners are all on the list.

"The star-studded line-up of literary icons and performers is bigger than ever, with an estimated 34 programs slated for January through June 2016," says Carolyn Bess, director of programming, in a release. "There’s something to suit everyone’s taste, no matter whether you prefer literary fiction, nonfiction, memoir, humor, poetry, music, art, or dance."

It all starts on January 11 at 7:30 pm with the "memoiristas," aka writer Mary Karr and actress Mary-Louise Parker, who will be discussing the popular Lit, which has been turned into a forthcoming Showtime series starring Parker as Karr. The pair will also talk about their two latest literary works — yes, Parker has published her first book, titled Dear Mr. You.

Perennial favorite humor essayist David Sedaris, actor Rainn Wilson (The Office), novelist Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love), Top Chef host Padma Lakshmi, and Texas Monthly executive editor Skip Hollandsworth are just a few of the other speakers scheduled.

Bess also notes that two of the presentations will dovetail with the DMA's exhibitions and collections initiatives: Texas Ballet Theater's world premiere of a suite of new dances inspired by "Jackson Pollock: Blind Spots," and "a French Riviera fête focusing on the newly published connections between the Wendy and Emery Reves Collection and Coco Chanel, featuring curator Olivier Meslay and Chanel biographer Rhonda K. Garelick."

Most events will take place in the Horchow Auditorium at the DMA, but check the website for updates and pricing.

Photo courtesy of Tim Cassedy

SMU professor’s bawdy card game harpoons idea that classic lit can be fun

Fun With Moby-Dick

Even if you've never read the book, you probably still know the opening line of Herman Melville's literary classic Moby-Dick: “Call me Ishmael.” But how familiar are you with the rest of Melville's writing? Would you recognize passages or lines from the 200,000-word novel out of context?

SMU assistant English professor Tim Cassedy is hoping that you won't, because that's the crux of what makes his new card game so funny. Called — appropriately, yet hilariously — Dick, it's a Cards Against Humanity-style party amusement that uses actual phrases from the 164-year-old novel paired with semi-innocent questions.

Available on Etsy, the game includes 400 white cards and 100 green cards. Each player starts with 12 white cards (the answers), and the judge of each round chooses a green card (the question) for the players to pair with their funniest white card. The judge determines a winner, the white cards are replenished, and the player with the most green cards at the end wins.

The answers by themselves are not meant to be naughty. However, when singled out and paired with questions such as “Dearly beloved friends, we are gathered here to join together these two persons in ...” or “A therapist asks you why you're there ...” answers such as “a low sucking sound” and “the midnight spout” suddenly seem uproariously filthy.

Cassedy told the Washington Posthe was first struck with the idea for the game while teaching at SMU. “Moby-Dick,” he says, “questions everything and holds nothing sacred. It’s weirder, funnier, much more irreverent than you think. It would be an exaggeration to say that the book is nonstop sex jokes, but it is nonstop playfulness and irreverence.”

His hope is that people playing his game might discover “that Moby-Dick isn’t the sober tome they had been led to expect and feel empowered to read it.”

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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Texas rises through the ranks of most innovative states, says new report


The Lone Star State has again taken a step up on an annual report that ranks the most and least innovative states in the country — this time cracking the top 15.

Texas ranked No. 15 in personal finance site WalletHub's 2023’s Most and Least Innovative States ranking. It's a steady improvement for the state, which ranked No. 16 in 2022 and No. 17 in 2021.

The report analyzed the 50 states and the District of Columbia and how each performed across 22 key metrics, including population of STEM professionals, venture capital investment activity, number of technology companies, patents per capita, and more. The data was pulled from the U.S. Census Bureau, Bureau of Labor Statistics, National Science Foundation, National Center for Education Statistics, United States Patent and Trademark Office, and other records.

Here's how Texas performed at a glance:

  • No. 18 – for share of STEM professionals
  • No. 16 – for projected STEM job demand by 2030
  • No. 25 – for eighth grade math and science performance
  • No. 21 – for share of science and engineering graduates aged 25 or older
  • No. 13 – for share of technology companies
  • No. 31 – for R&D spending per capita
  • No. 18 – venture capital funding per capita

For the 11th year, Texas won Site Selection Magazine's Governor's Cup, the governor's office announced earlier this year. The award, which Texas has won 19 times since its inception in 1978, recognizes the nation’s top-performing state for job-creating business relocations and expansions.

"Texas truly is America’s economic engine, and we stand apart as a model for the nation. When choosing where to relocate or expand their businesses, more and more innovative industry leaders find themselves at home in our state," Governor Greg Abbott says in a news release about the award.

"I congratulate the exceptional economic development teams at the local, regional, and state level who have worked so diligently to attract and retain these growing businesses and the jobs they create in diverse communities across this great state," he continues.

The most innovative states included the District of Columbia, which ranked at No. 1, followed by Massachusetts, Washington, Maryland, and California, respectively. The least innovative state was identified as Mississippi, followed by Louisiana, North Dakota, West Virginia, and Arkansas, respectively.

Source: WalletHub

Access to quality education is a significant contributor to each state's innovation economy, the experts say in the report.

"Investing in education, particularly K-12 but also at the University level, it is no accident that innovative ecosystems develop in states with strong education systems and research universities," says David L. Deeds, professor at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis. "These institutions build strong capable modern workforces that attract capital, and jobs and create innovations. The benefits do not happen overnight, in fact, they take years if not decades, but consider what The UC’s or the University of Texas at Austin have meant for the development of premier innovative ecosystems."

Hall Group to open new hotel in mixed-use re-do of Frisco office park

Hotel News

Frisco is getting a new hotel at one of the city's pioneering office developments: Called the Hall Park Hotel, Autograph Collection, it'll open at Hall Park, and will be part of the Autograph Collection Hotels – Marriott Bonvoy collection.

According to a release, construction is anticipated to be complete in late 2023, with an opening set for spring 2024.

The hotel is part of the first phase of a $7 billion new masterplan to shift Hall Park from an office focus into a live-work-play community. It'll be owned by Dallas-based Hall Group, and operated by Coury Hospitality.

Autograph Collection Hotels – Marriott Bonvoy is known for its diverse independent hotels that champion individuality.

Hall Park Hotel will feature:

  • world-class contemporary art
  • outdoor pool
  • 4,000 square-foot ballroom
  • state-of-the-art fitness center
  • chef-driven restaurant and lounge
  • expansive patio

There will be 224 guest rooms and 60 well-appointed suites, supporting both short term and longer stays, with a focus on business travelers, events, meetings, regional “staycationers,” and tourists visiting Toyota Stadium, The Star in Frisco, regional youth sports tournaments, the upcoming PGA of America complex, and Universal Studios Park.

This makes the second hotel for Hall Group, the first being the Hall Arts Hotel which opened in the Dallas Arts District in 2019; and the fifth Autograph Hotel in the DFW area (others include the Adolphus in downtown Dallas, Hotel Vin in Grapevine, the Sinclair in Fort Worth, and Hotel Drover in Fort Worth).

Coury Hospitality is based in Las Colinas, with a portfolio of more than 30 hotels and restaurants, including 10 hotels in the Autograph Collection.

“Our partnership with Autograph Collection Hotels provides the opportunity to deliver a one-of-a-kind property to the residents and visitors of Frisco that will include a museum-quality art collection and world-class food and wine offerings,” says Hall Group chairman and CEO Craig Hall. “Framed by views of the art-filled Kaleidoscope Park, which is currently underway, hotel guests will be able to experience Frisco not only as a business and sports hub but also as an emerging arts and culture destination.”

Other new developments at Hall Park include The Monarch, a 19-story, luxury apartment tower expected to open in the fourth quarter. It'll have 214 units with 29 floorplans, including eight penthouse units with oversized balconies and high-end appliances and finishes, spa-inspired master baths and park views.

Amenities include a club room with kitchen, pool, fitness center, outdoor grilling areas, yoga and meditation space, bike storage, pet washing area, and meeting space.

The base of the residential tower will hold a 10,000-square-foot eatery, slated to open in 2024, with a diverse selection of 10 unique, chef-driven restaurants.

They're also building The Tower at Hall Park, a 16-story office tower that shares a podium with the hotel and will boast multiple terraces on every suite level, outdoor amenity space, and direct park access. That tower will also include 10,000 square feet of ground-level retail and restaurant space facing Kaleidoscope Park. It's also forecast to open in the fourth quarter of 2023.

Dallas to give away free produce in one neighborhood every other Friday

Vegetable News

The City of Dallas’ Office of Community Care, in collaboration with the American Heart Association and the Last Patrol, has launched a fresh produce drive at the West Dallas Multipurpose Center.

Starting Friday, March 24, Dallas residents can drive-thru or walk-up to the WDMC to get fresh produce, free of charge. The drive thru will take place on the second and fourth Friday of each month.

Through this initiative, OCC and its partners aim to provide access to fresh food and nutritional support to more than 370,000 community members in West Dallas who are impacted by food insecurity.

"Food insecurity occurs when healthy food is not readily available daily, due to poverty or socioeconomic challenges, causing people to go hungry or eat food that is of reduced quality, variety or desirability," says West Dallas Multipurpose Center manager Ashley Hutto in a statement. "This program will support community members in improving food security and access to fresh produce in West Dallas."

Aamerican Heart Association Community Impact Director Bry Mabry says they chose the location for its accessibility to a large population in need.

“This center is a centerpiece of the community in West Dallas and a suitable location to reach a large portion of the residents of West Dallas," Mabry says.

"This area within Dallas County historically has had high rates of poverty and food insecurity," she says. "Knowing and understanding the needs in this area, the American Heart Association's North Texas Team continues to partner with the West Dallas Multipurpose Center to create more opportunities for positive impact."

The fresh produce distribution will be first-come, first-serve, from 1-2:30 p.m. at WDMC, located at 2828 Fish Trap Rd.

There is no income or zip code requirement to participate.