Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Manning Wolfe--A Love Letter to Austin



DEBORAH CROMBIE: What is more fun in a mystery than local color and FOOD? And where is cooler and hipper than Austin, Texas? (Well, Key West has a foot in, but Austin is hard to beat. Maybe I should have said "boot in"...)


Austin lawyer and writer Manning Wolfe gives us plenty of both in her debut novel, Dollar Signs: Texas Lady Lawyer vs. Boots King.


MERIT BRIDGES, an attorney and widowed mother in Austin, Texas, works hard, drinks too much wine, and sleeps with younger men. When Merit goes after a shady corporation threatening her client, she encounters hired gun Boots King. His charge is simple, “Stop her!” Merit and her team – including Betty, a mothering office manager with a bad-ass attitude – struggle to stay alive, while they navigate a labyrinth of legal issues, and prove once again that you don’t mess with a Texas lady lawyer.

And in between going after serious villains (and Boots King is one of the slimiest I've come across in a while) Merit manages to get in some fabulous Austin foodie spots. Here's Manning to tell us more.


Everyone knows about new hip Austin, and I certainly enjoy the hotspots as well. Places like Uchi, Barley Swine, and Franklins BBQ are included in Dollar Signs as representative of the vast and popular foodie scene that brings thousands of visitors to town yearly and pleases the palates of locals daily. The thriving entertainment scene with live music heard every night of the week, SXSW, and ACL are also featured.

I love my town, and am grateful to live here. But, if I go on a little too long about Austin I’ll become nostalgic for the old hangouts that have disappeared and I may start to weep. In that vein – both old and new - many readers have dubbed my legal thriller, Dollar Signs, a love letter to Austin, Texas.

Many venues that I included in my first draft of Dollar Signs disappeared before I reached publication date and the manuscript had to be modified. That’s how fast things are moving. It is my hope that the remaining favorites and hangouts, if they go by way of the Horseshoe Lounge, Fran’s Burgers, and Green Pastures, will live on in my series. The city is a character as much as Merit Bridges, the sassy downtown lawyer, Betty, her bad-ass office manager, and Ag, her investigator.

When I began writing the Texas Lady Lawyer series, Austin was in it’s second boom. I live in the first mid-rise built in SoLa (South Lamar), at that time the last bastion of “hippieness.” I have watched new hip Austin grow up around me. I took great care to include in Dollar Signs the nostalgic weird venues that hold that original Austin flavor from the early days that made Keep Austin Weird a common phrase. These venues are no longer the norm, but are still holding court in places that locals frequent when they need a hit on what “used to be.” Most have been modernized, but memories account for a lot when one is seeking home.

When I want to feel that old Austin vibe, here are a few of my favs:

Stubb’s BBQ, know for cold beer and live music is the venue where I first saw Bob Dylan play “Tangled Up In Blue” and other hits. Located in downtown Austin and 2.9 miles from my condo, it’s a handy spot when I need to feel the heritage of Armadillo World Headquarters or Liberty Lunch – both long gone, but not forgotten.

Maria’s Taco Xpress for hippie church on Sunday is hosted by the iconic Maria Corbalan. Gospel and tacos sit one half block from my abode. If I’m not in the mood to socialize, I just open the front door and sit on the balcony to soak up the sounds and the smells of stewing pork, menudo, and grilled onions.

The Hole in The Wall dive bar by the University of Texas, less than 3 miles away, is a local and student hangout for live music, open mike, and beautiful coeds. It’s anchored the drag since 1971 when Austin City Limits was taped in the building across the street.

Shade Grove Café on Barton Springs Road, just 2 miles away is the gateway to Zilker Park. It still remains popular for the outdoor sitting area, filled with vintage lawn chairs and retro gliders, set amongst pecan trees and one remaining nearby trailer park. The hippie chick, which is an eggplant and vegetable sandwich with pesto mayo can take me right back to the first time locals said, “No meat?”

Green Mesquite BBQ and outdoor patio where fiddle contests have been held for years is a few doors down. Their BBQ is not the most famous in town, but it might be the most visited by those wanting to remember. Their slogan “smokin’ the good stuff since 1988” says it all.

Nutty Brown Café located in Dripping Springs off Highway 290 W, requires a thirty-minute drive into the Texas Hill Country. Listening to live music on the oak-shaded patio while eating a chicken fried steak bigger than a hub cap allows the conjuring of Willie Nelson, Lyle Lovett, and Bonnie Raitt when music lovers could sit at their feet without security guards blocking the view.

Threadgill World Headquarters, W beside the site of the former Armadillo World Headquarters, serves what my doctor calls “grandma food.” Liver and onions while listening to Billy Joe Shaver, Jesse Sublett, or Hayes Carll will put even the newest transplant in a trance of Texas memorializing.

A couple of honorable mentions are the Saxon Pub in the neighborhood. Plus, Poodle Dog Lounge, Frisco Diner and San Miguel de Allende about seven miles north on what’s called Burnet Road. It is a road, but it’s also a place.

Seeing these venues side by side with new hip venues is actually exciting. Change is hard, but I have to admit, we’re having a great time. There is a scene in Dollar Signs where Merit Bridges is forced from her connection to old Austin and has to take a step into the new hip town. She goes begrudgingly, as all longtime Austin dwellers do, but go she does.



DEBS: Just reading this makes me want to get in my car and head south on I35. Austin barbecue is calling... And Austin music--oh, my!

Reds and readers, does reading about places make you want to go there? And do you love Austin?
 
Manning is an author and attorney, with one foot in the business world and one foot in the creative realm. Her business experience, combined with her vivid imagination manifests in quality services for clients, as well as compelling storytelling for readers.
The first in her legal thriller series, Dollar Signs: Texas Lady Lawyer vs Boots King, will be published on February 18, 2016. The second in the series, Dollar Signs: Texas Lady Lawyer vs Browno Zars will follow in the summer.
Manning is a graduate of Rice University and the University of Texas School of Law.  She makes her home in Austin, Texas with her mate Bill. Her grown son Aaron lives nearby.




38 comments:

Joan Emerson said...

Reading this makes me want to pack up and travel to Austin, just to eat! I'll have to be sure to read "Dollar Signs" . . . .

Sometimes authors make the places I read about sound so inviting that I think I'd like to visit; mostly, however, I appreciate having those places come alive in the story.

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Reine said...

You got my mouth watering for chicken fried steak. I haven't had a good one since we left Bakersfield and could make a run up Kern Canyon to Nelda's Diner in Lake Isabella. That was back when Hag lived a the foot of the canyon and wrote Kern River. We waved at the place long after he moved. It was a little like crossing yourself when you walked past the church.

Hallie Ephron said...

Sounds like I need to get to Austin with Manning's book in my bag... It's on my list.

Lucy Burdette aka Roberta Isleib said...

Hi Manning, this does sound like a wonderful place to live! I have a similar problem in the Key West series--the real places come and go, as do the people. My solution is to leave things as written--they aren't guidebooks after all.

How do you balance the wonderful scenery and food so it doesn't overwhelm the story?

Edith Maxwell said...

Yes! I've never been to Austin and would love to go soon, especially with this list in hand. The book and the premise sound delightful, Manning. Congratulations.

Kay said...

OK, I definitely have to read this book. I'm an Austin native or almost native (8th grade) and am definitely a Texas native. All the places you mentioned are familiar to me. Green Pastures - wow. The Poodle Dog Lounge - Fonda San Miguel - Frisco Burger. I might add Holiday House to places long gone, though there were several locations. One had an emu and was located on Burnet Road. My husband and I had our first date there a really long time ago - we both ate on $5 if that tells you anything.

So, yes, I love Austin. And honestly, it's gotten a little big for me. The traffic - don't get me started. That being said, it's my home. We live a bit north of Austin now - out of the urban - but it's my favorite place in Texas. And it is definitely unique.

Susan Elia MacNeal said...

Welcome, Manning, and congratulations! Austin has long been on my bucket list — and now I'll have to bookmark this post for ideas! Jungle Reds roadtrip to Austin, anyone?

Mary Sutton said...

I've never been to Austin. But I do love good BBQ and music, so maybe it's another place to add to my bucket list.

Gospel and tacos? I'd be all over that, too.

Rhys said...

Manning I'm going to be speaking in Austin this weekend. (Book People on Saturdsy and Sisters in Crime on Sunday). I forward to a foodie experience and wish you luck with the book

Rhys

Manning Wolfe said...

Come on over Joan, we have plenty of food! It's easy to make Austin come alive, it's such a lively place!

Manning Wolfe said...

Thanks! I'll write as fast as I can!

Manning Wolfe said...

I understand the reverence, Reine!

Manning Wolfe said...

Hallie, try the San Jose or Austin hotel on S Congress. That way you can walk to many places & people watch.

Manning Wolfe said...

Good tip Lucy. I try to include places & scenes as Merit moves around the city advancing the plot. It keeps her very busy. lol

Manning Wolfe said...

Thank you, Edith!

Manning Wolfe said...

Howdy Neighbor! I do remember the Holiday House in Tarrytown! Big breakfast spot. It closed when a vegetarian bought the shopping center & got rid of all the bacon places!

Manning Wolfe said...

Thanks Susan! Come for a visit soon. If it's hot, you can go for an icy swim in Barton Creek Pool.

Manning Wolfe said...

Mary, maybe you could eat your way along the BBQ trail from Lockhart to Taylor!

Manning Wolfe said...

Rhys, yes, I'm to be your driver on Saturday! I'll be picking you up at the airport & taking you to BookPeople for your signing. After, Susters in Crime is taking you to Eastside Cafe, another fab Austin restaurant! Looking forward to it!

Deborah Crombie said...

Manning, thanks for all the fun comments. I wanted to say something about the legal issues in the book. As a non-lawyer, I found the case fascinating. I loved the sense of authenticity, and getting a realistic view of how the whole process works. Your website says you base your stories on real case files. Did you deal with a case like this? (Readers, an outdoor billboard company is getting customers to sign leases that contain, in tiny print in the boilerplate on the back of the lease, what is basically a lien against their property.) Did I get that more or less right, Manning?

Kathy Waller said...

A fine love letter to Austin, Manning. May Green Pastures and its milk punch live forever. I always drink my husband's as well as mine; the waiter looks at me funny when he refills the glasses, but I don't care. (By the way, your book has a permanent home on my Fire.)

Rhys, Sisters in Crime will also take you to Fonda San Miguel for Sunday brunch. Not time for the complete Austin experience, but we hope you'll want to come back.

Rhys said...

How wonderful, Manning! I look forward to meeting you!

Rhys

Kathy Reel said...

Manning Wolfe. If that isn't a name to be envied, I don't know what is. And the cover of Dollar Signs is, well, on fire. Merit sounds like a character that's going to be in the middle of a lot of trouble, but able to take care of herself. Your amazing descriptions the Austin eateries makes Austin a place I'd love to visit. The restaurants are an important part of my trip anywhere. Thanks for sharing all of this information with us today, and good luck with your book, although I think it's going to be a force of its own.

Julia said...

The Smithie has an interview with the Austin Public Library for a job - I'll have to get her DOLLAR SIGNS so she can see for herself what she has to look forward to!

Pat D said...

I loved old Austin. When I was a kid my big brother and I would make a day trip there with Dad. He was working on his masters degree and would go on an occasional Saturday to confer with his advisor. Big brother and I would hang out at the museum with its dinosaur bones and footprints. Big brother started college there in the fall of 1964; I followed in the fall of '67. Threadgill's was in a gas station. We'd drive out (several years later) to the Stallion for chicken fried steak. I think that was on Lamar. There were several Mexican restaurants in walking distance of the campus. There was also the shady Plantation House--a place for pancakes and pot. So I'm told. Had the pancakes. The Nighthawk steakhouse was also on the Drag. The current or former mayor owned it. The YMCA build their new building on the Drag and then couldn't afford to occupy it. I don't know if they ever made it in. Last time I was in Austin, maybe 5 years ago, Dirty's aka Martin's Kum Back was still there. I just don't like going back and seeing all the high rises and traffic. Dad used to moan about how much Austin had changed from his time when he dropped me off for college each fall. He did introduce me to Scholtz's Beer Garden, which is still there. Hooray! I could go on and on with stories, but I won't bore you.

Kait said...

Ohhhh, Austin is on my bucket list. Now I'm hungry and I need a road trip. Sounds like a great novel.

Manning Wolfe said...

Yes, Debbie, you got the facts correct. And, the two brothers who owned the small business were my clients. They came to me when. Goliath Corp. That I call Nixon in the book, attempted to take their land with the sneaky clause in the sign lease. All names changed to protect the guilty! Of course, I made their hired gun really evil & dramatized a lot of the courtroom scenes. Thank you!

Manning Wolfe said...

Yes Kathy, we are going to show off the town to Rhys! See you on Saturday.

Manning Wolfe said...

And I you Rhys - at your service!

Manning Wolfe said...

Kathy, thank you for the kind words & good wishes! Happy reading.

Manning Wolfe said...

Austin has so many wonderful libraries! Good luck to her & thanks for your support.

Manning Wolfe said...

Pat - I love hearing all the Austin stories. Dirty's is gone. Sry. Friscos on Burnet has all the Night Hawk memorabilia. They serve the top chopped & other NH favs.

Manning Wolfe said...

Kait, come on down! There is a lot of southern hospitality in Austin!

Manning Wolfe said...

Thank you Jungle Red Writers! It's been a lot of fun! xoxo, Manning

Lynn in Texas said...

Know I'm late to the party, but just catching up. So happy to "meet" a new to me author with an incredibly appealing-sounding book that's right up my alley. DH & I lived in Austin from 1975 thru beginning of 1979, so we're very familiar with lots of places mentioned. Got out before the first big "boom" happened, though would have loved to stay if housing wasn't so expensive by then! We still have friends in the surrounding area, mostly around Lake Travis and not Austin proper. Would love to visit again soon, even if it's armchair reading! Haven't been back in several years and it's soooo different now! Ah, but what fond memories!

Manning Wolfe said...

Lynn - fashionably late! Lake Travis is back up to full level with all the rain. Always a nice area to visit. Hope to see you here soon.

Linda Rima said...

Love Austin! Given the choice of San Antonio (great food too) & Austin, I always pick Austin! Had my first fried green tomatoes there & later fried pickles. Love the great BbQ places! My sister lives there so we always hit the locals hot spots. And, I loved Shady Grove eating out on the patio. Will probably be Viking over the Easter weekend!! I am so tickled to find you as a new author and look forward to reading Dollar Signs.