Dad, I Wrote Me a Book!

Over the years, Bob Lanier has occasionally dismissed some criticism or other from George Greanias by noting that Greanias is a "playwright." That's true: The ex-controller has two plays to his credit, Wilson and Hello, Hamlet, in addition to authoring or co-authoring several public policy books.

By pointing out Greanias's avocation, Lanier, obviously, is suggesting that Greanias is prone to constructing fictitious narratives, at least about Bob Lanier. On a more subliminal level, he's probably also stretching to portray Greanias as the type to waste time putting words on paper when he could be out doing something more useful, like paying off a debt to the RTC.

Now that Greanias is officially running for mayor, Lanier will have futher occasion to call attention to Greanias's talents as a dramatist. But while Greanias is easily the most accomplished wordsmith in this year's mayor's race, he's far from the only one. In fact, a veritable Algonquin Round Table will be on the November 4 ballot. Although not noted for his verbal dynamism, Lee Brown, for one, is credited with writing an entire 11-page monograph on community policing. Compared to Brown and Greanias, though, Rob Mosbacher is a regular Renaissance man of the semi-fine arts. Not only does he play drums at charity balls and such with his own little rock and roll combo, he, too, once found time to write a book -- one that can actually be purchased at the local Bookstop or Barnes & Noble. The man's a walking vanity production!

Well, it says on the cover that he wrote it. I believe that Mosbacher's longtime aide-de-camp, Mark Sanders, once told me he actually drilled the words onto paper or into the word processor. And he's indeed credited by Mosbacher in the preface for helping "research, organize and edit" the manuscript (which just about covers it), while Ron Lindsey, who was commissioner of the Texas Department of Human Services when Mosbacher chaired that agency's board, and several others are also thanked for their help. Now Sanders tells me that Mosbacher actually tapped his thoughts into a laptop and that he just firmed them up into a readable form. Whatever the case, Mosbacher wasn't sitting alone in some dank basement, smoking French cigarettes and pecking out his inspiration on the old Underwood. When you're a multimillionaire like this guy, you can convene a whole committee before you write your book.

But life is short, and despite Mosbacher's noblesse in bestowing his thoughts on the world, you shouldn't feel obliged to waste any of your allotted threescore and ten reading his book. Like another Rob, that would be Channel 2's Johnson, I'm willing to go the extra mile to help the customers navigate the complexities of modern life, even if it means submerging myself in a rapidly flooding car or tying myself to the track in front of an oncoming train -- or reading Mosbacher's book. There is one thing I won't do, however, and that's fork over the $9.95 ($13.25 Canadian) list price for it.

Fortunately, somebody has deemed Mosbacher's book to be of such local significance that you can find a copy in the Texas Room of the downtown library, along with other archival documents and books pertaining to Houston's history. Unfortunately, if you're doing research for one of Mosbacher's opponents, or simply seeking an afternoon of guaranteed stupefaction, you'll have to spend several hours sitting upright in a hard-backed chair, because it's against library policy to check out anything from the Texas Room. I myself needed a free copy I could take to the john, and finally found one at the Looscan library branch (near River Oaks, natch). "Is this the Rob Mosbacher?" asked the librarian before flipping the book over, spying his mug and declaring, "Yes, it is!" Guess he doesn't attract as many patrons as Michael Crichton.

Still, Mosbacher's book was issued by a real, honest-to-God publishing house, Summit Publishing of Fort Worth (other hot titles: 1001 Most Asked Texas Gardening Questions and Dallas Cowboys: Our Story), and according to a publicist for Summit, it's sold about 10,000 copies, a fairly respectable number for "this type of book," as she put it. So why would 10,000 presumably sentient Texans fork over ten-plus bucks for this type of book? There are many good reasons, my friend:

1. Title: Deep in the Heart: A Remedy for an Ailing Texas. Kind of catchy. I guess it's meant to convey the painful malaise and dreary state of affairs in Texas that has caused at least one person to abandon his home in West U and move into a River Oaks apartment to run for mayor of Houston. It's a hurtin' world, ain't it?

2. Cover: A drawing of a steer lying on its back, hooves aloft -- it's croaked, apparently -- with a Lone Star flag motif imposed on its carcass. A much, much hipper cover than you'll find on the average public policy tome. From it, I deduce that the author is an ironist.

3. Dedication: To his wife. He's no Drew Nixon!
4. Number of pages: 198. It's no Mason & Dixon, but I was worried that Deep in the Heart might stretch my limited attention span. Not to worry, though: It's printed on real small pages in a good-sized typeface, and plenty of the space is eaten up by charts and graphs and the filler devices we in the word biz call "pull quotes." Plus, the blank pages between Mosbacher's chapters are included in the total count. So even non-Mensa-affiliated readers should be able to plow through Deep in the Heart in two hours, tops.

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