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Sam Grad T. Austin Cumings
Does 'Splendid' Book on Texas History

In 1987 Tim Cumings was asked by his dad, Nesbitt Cumings, to find out a little more about their family history. Tim Cumings had studied journalism at Sam Houston State University, graduating in 1970, and had worked on Texas newspapers. He was no stranger to research.

book cover
Sam Houston State University graduate T. Austin Cumings

Nesbitt Cumings died in 1991 but his request had grown into an idea for a novel. This past November Tim Cumings completed and published a book that should interest any Texan, or anyone interested in Texas past or present for that matter, and who cares at all about how Texas came to be.

Tim's ancestors came to Texas with Stephen F. Austin and he has great pride in that heritage. Thus, he authored A Splendid Country as T. Austin Cumings.

It's his first novel, and if his deteriorating eyesight will hold out, he said, he may do more. But if he never writes another word he will have added greatly to an understanding of what it was like to live and struggle in the formative years of the United States and Texas, during a hundred year slice of this nation's existence beginning in 1776.

Actually, it is not the facts he uses, but the way they are so colorfully presented that bring these long dead people, and their time, to life again.

A Second Opinion

By M. L. Roberts
Eakin Press Editor

I had a difficult time editing this book--because I kept getting lost in the story and forgetting I was supposed to be looking for problems. The author's writing style is very smooth. With his family history as a foundation, Cumings is able to tell the story in an almost heartfelt way, while keeping himself distanced as narrator.

The facts behind the family history have been gently moulded by the author's talent in conjuring "what-if" possibilities. His creativity is particularly evidenced in his treatment of the relationship between Rebecca Cumings and William B. Travis. His knowledge of history (which is not limited by any means to Texas history) is not forced upon the reader; rather, it subtly weaves into the fictional story and provides a plausible foundation for his plot and subplots.

I especially enjoyed his descriptors and the way his phrasing effortlessly but accurately paints vivid scenes, so much so that we could imagine being there ourselves. A Splendid Country spans a full century, telling of a family's progression from the Ohio Valley and ending up in Texas at its most crucial hour, during the fight for independence. The general history behind it many of us know, but there is nothing tired in this story: It comes at us fresh and alive and open for reconsideration.

As you might be able to tell, I thoroughly enjoyed the book! I just hope I'm lucky enough to be able to edit another from Tim Cumings. I suspect, however, that I'd have to land a job with a major publisher on the East Coast to be able to do so!

This is not a simple story, but it is engrossing, tracing the Cumings clan from Virginia to a wilderness religious colony in Kentucky, then down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers to Texas. There Rebecca Cumings becomes involved with two men who died at the Alamo.

An already-intriguing story is told with the added detail of earthquake, hurricane, flood, steamboat lore, virtue, inhumanity, heroism and treachery along the way.

The book should inform and entertain almost any age, in this age when too many of our youngsters have no idea of what their families went through for us to have the royal lives and opportunities we have. What they do learn often comes from dry history texts, full of facts but little feeling. Not this book.

Here are examples:
"Anthony approached the man who had his hands on his hips, the universal pose of one in charge."

"The normally uniform stands of trees atop the riverbanks appeared in violent disarray. Many trees were down; others leaned crazily into one another like drunken companions."

"For the people of Mexico, the latest change in political leadership would prove to be yet another case of hugging a viper to their bosoms. The name of this particular reptile was Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna."

"The Townsends had timed their shindig to correspond to the appearance of the full moon. Should a clear night be in the offing, as was hoped for, the moonlight would help the partygoers find their way home. The sphere did not disappoint, rising goblin orange over the treetops well after dark."

"There were two fiddles available, not in tune with each other, and musicians of varying talent and energy took turns coaxing upbeat tunes out of them."

book cover
Tim Cumings was born in Houston and grew up in Fort Bend County. After graduating from Sam Houston State, he spent more than 20 years in the newspaper business as writer and editor in Huntsville, Conroe, Beeville, Bryan-College Station, Rosenberg, Pasadena and Houston (Post).

He returned to Fort Bend County to work in 1992, although he has lived in Richmond since 1982, and is the county's records management officer and grants administrator.

The book is of the type often called historical fiction. Cumings calls it "novelized history." There was much research on the work of archaeologists and historians, and digging through data in museums, libraries, and state and county records. Along the way he gave up twice, thinking he would never have anything good enough to publish.

Eakin Press of Austin did publish the book. It came out in November, and without any advertising other than from those few who have read and recommended it, more than 400 copies have been sold. It's available for $26.95, not yet in your neighborhood bookstore, but at Eakin Press, 1.800,880.8642, or by Internet at (shipping free).

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SHSU Media Contact: Frank Krystyniak
July 5, 2001
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