Butler Center Books, the publishing division of the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies, recently released two new histories. Michael Lindsay's “Big Hat Law: The Arkansas State Police, 1935-2000” ($19.95, paper; $39.95, hardcover) chronicles the evolution of the State Police from its tentative roots, when concerns of usurpation of local authority nearly prevented it from getting off the ground, to its colorful attempts to stamp out illegal gambling (former State Police director Lynn Davis, in the late 1960s, took a maul to a pile of slot machines outside a casino in Hot Springs, set others on fire and had them bulldozed and buried). The 208-page book includes 22 black and white photographs.
In “The Good Ground of Central High: Little Rock Central High and Legendary Coach Wilson Matthews” ($19.95, paper; $37.95, hardcover) former Tiger football player George Cate recalls life at Central in the early 1950s. Wilson's brand of “smash-mouth” football, which made the school one of the country's premier programs, was taught alongside “quiet lessons on racial tolerance,” according to a news release on the memoir. Cate pays special attention to the role of Riley “Doc” Johns, the team's trainer and a “mentor and father figure to many of the players.”
A dozen years in the making, “As Big As the West: The Pioneer Life of Granville Stuart” (Oxford University Press, $34.95, hardcover), written by Arkansas State University professors (and husband and wife) Dr. Clyde Milner II and Dr. Carol O'Connor, tells the story of Stuart (1834-1918), a Gold Rush miner, cattle baron, master of languages and ambassador to Paraguay and Uruguay.
The couple will sign copies of “As Big As the West” at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 4, at That Bookstore in Blytheville, at 3:30 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 11, at the Dean B. Ellis Library at ASU in Jonesboro and at 6 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 12, at the Darragh Center Auditorium in the Main Library at 100 Rock St.
Here's another plug, following last week's feature on Nate Powell, for the comic artist's new graphic novel, “Swallow Me Whole” (Top Shelf Comix, $19.95, hardcover). The Little Rock native, who grew up in North Little Rock, spent some 800 days crafting the 200-plus-page book, and it shows. With bold sweeps of black ink, Powell stretches the bounds of traditional comics in his story of mental illness in teen-agers.