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Michener's `Texas' may stampede Lone Star staters to bookstores

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The Texan's love of legend, attention, and scrutiny is about to receive a major boost: James Michener's historical novel, ``Texas,'' is set to hit the bookstores next week. The best-selling author, himself now a Texan, says the book was written primarily ``not for the resident of Texas, but for those in Vermont and New York and England who want to know what Texas really is, and how it got there.'' Chances are good, nevertheless, that copies will sell fastest right here where the story is known best.

Already the book -- whose 750,000-copy first printing is the largest in the history of Random House publishing -- has garnered growing attention as Texans ponder what someone like James Michener will tell the world about them.

``It's phenomenal, the level of interest this book is creating,'' says David Dean, a Dallas lawyer who first came up with the idea of having Mr. Michener write a ``monumental epic'' to commemorate the Texas sesquicentennial in 1986.

The story behind the birth of the novel ``Texas'' is itself worthy of legendary status, and says more about Texas pride than any book could.

Mr. Dean was general counsel to former Texas Gov. Bill Clements in 1981 when he read Michener's ``Centennial'' -- a one-time bestseller about Colorado -- and decided a similar novel telling the Texas story would be a fitting tribute to the 150th anniversary of Texas's independence from Mexico.

Mr. Clements was ``immediately excited'' about the idea, according to Dean, and quickly contacted Michener by telephone to suggest the book. A long weekend visit by the Micheners to Clements' country estate soon followed. The trip included a stop in Austin, the Texas capital, where state officials and representatives of the University of Texas gathered to receive the world-renowned author and give him a taste of Texas hospitality. Michener was told that office space at the university, access to its libr aries, and a research staff would be made available to him.

Then in September, adds Dean, Governor Clements received from Mr. Michener ``a letter I'll never forget. `To my dear Governor Bill,' it started, `the answer is yes.' ''


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