Crook, Elizabeth 1959- (Mary Elizabeth Crook)
Crook, Elizabeth 1959- (Mary Elizabeth Crook)
Born April 9, 1959, in Houston, TX; daughter of William H. (a businessman and U.S. Ambassador) and Eleanor Crook; married Mark S. Lewis (a professor), July, 1994; children: two. Ethnicity: "Caucasian." Education: Rice University, B.A., 1982.
Home—Austin, TX. Office—1510 W. 24th St., Austin, TX 78703.
Texas Institute of Letters (council member).
Texas Writers' Month honored writer for 2006.
The Raven's Bride, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1991.
Promised Lands: A Novel of the Texas Rebellion, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1994.
The Night Journal, Viking (New York, NY), 2006.
Elizabeth Crook is a historical novelist. Her first novel, The Raven's Bride, is a fictionalized version of the marriage of Sam Houston and Eliza Allen in 1829—a marriage that only lasted eleven weeks, and which neither party ever spoke of again. The thirty-six-year-old governor of Tennessee, and later Texan hero, and his twenty-year-old bride seemed born to disagree: he was a flamboyant eccentric with the ambition to rule Texas, who drank heavily and spent his free time memorizing Byron's poetry and teaching The Iliad to his adopted Cherokee relatives, and she was a small, intense woman with a secret passion for a former lover. As Andy Solomon wrote in the Chicago Tribune, in such a situation, "how well can a private relationship and public ambition coexist? Not very." Reviewer Billy Porterfield, writing in the Austin American-Statesman praised Crook's writing: "She writes not as a novice but as an adroit and often brilliant storyteller, mixing the requirements of history, the call of romance and its tragic conclusion with narrative ease." Suzanne Winckler, a reviewer writing for Texas Monthly, observed: "What makes Crook's novel more than a competent historical romance is her proficiency in handling complicated themes that reach across time." Booklist reviewer Jay Freeman stated that "this is a first rate piece of historical fiction as well as a frequently moving love story." In addition to the two main characters, Davy Crockett and Andrew Jackson also appear in the story.
Writing about Crook's second book, Promised Lands: A Novel of the Texas Rebellion, Chicago Tribune critic Joyce R. Slater compared Crook to Tolstoy and Margaret Mitchell in taking up the complexities of the Texas rebellion from the viewpoint of the family. The families involved are the Hispanic Pachecos and the Anglo Kenners, and as the novel opens, in 1835 on the eve of the Texas rebellion, tension between the two families and their respective ethnic groups is high. According to Slater, Crook writes vividly of the events that intertwine the fates of these two families, and the horrors of the rebellion. A Publishers Weekly reviewer wrote: "Crook's prose … is generally tough and wise." She "conveys an almost tactile sense of life in a different time," the reviewer concluded. And Slater commented: "If anyone still thinks that women are too dainty, too emotionally fragile, to deal with the brutal, blood-and-guts aspect of combat, Crook will make them think again."
Crook's third novel, The Night Journal, took her ten years to write. As she commented to M.E. Wood in an interview for BellaOnline: "This is not a lot to show for a decade of labor." Still, Crook noted: "I think it improved the book. Trite as it sounds, the longer we live the more we know, and the more informed our writing becomes. By allowing myself to stumble along through so many years and so many faulty drafts, I ended up writing a book I could never have plotted beforehand." The Night Journal tells the story of Meg Mabry, a medical engineer who struggles to resolve her conflicting feelings toward her grandmother, a historian who built a high-profile career as editor of Meg's great- grandmother's journals of frontier life in 1890s New Mexico. While questioning the believability of some plot elements, a reviewer for Publishers Weekly noted that the book effectively "blends mystery, chick-lit-style romance and historical fiction." Mike Shea, writing in Texas Monthly, deemed the novel a "near perfect, [and] beautifully restrained epic."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Austin American-Statesman, February 1, 1991, Billy Porterfield, "Estranged Wife Held Key to Houston's Aspirations."
Booklist, February 15, 1991, Jay Freeman, review of The Raven's Bride; March 15, 1994, Mary Ellen Quinn, review of Promised Lands: A Novel of the Texas Rebellion.
Chicago Tribune, February 17, 1991, Andy Solomon, "Over the ‘First’ Hurdle," p. 7; April 22, 1994, Joyce R. Slater, "Ex-lover Twosome Digs for Dirt on Ambassador," p. 6.
Houston Post, March 27, 1994, Joyce Slater, "Writer Finds Maturity in Promised Lands," p. C6.
People Weekly, May 6, 1991, Joanne Kaufman, review of The Raven's Bride, p. 38.
Publishers Weekly, December 20, 1993, review of Promised Lands: A Novel of the Texas Rebellion, p. 48; January 2, 2006, review of The Night Journal, p. 35.
Texas Monthly, March, 1991, Suzanne Winckler, "A Lovers' Knot," p. 46; February, 2006, Mike Shea, review of The Night Journal, p. 60.
BellaOnline,http://www.bellaonline.com/ (February 22, 2007), M.E. Wood, interview with Elizabeth Crook.
Elizabeth Crook Home Page,http://www.elizabethcrookbooks.com (February 22, 2007).