The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 101, July 1997 - April, 1998

Southwestern Historical Quarterly

Hardware still sells supplies and and tools. On the square where Seguin and San
Antonio streets cross, the limestone courthouse retains its four original
entrances. Emma Hoffman in "Someday, Vielleicht" sees three structures visible
today: the now-closed electric power plant, the steeples of Saints Peter and Paul
Catholic Church, and the First Protestant Church.
In Goyne's stories men treat their wives kindly yet are stern toward their
children. Women are obsessed with impeccable cleanliness. In "The Man with
Big Ideas," an outlander with a non-German name directs the Chamber of
Commerce, promoting a modern New Braunfels while local businessmen hes-
itate about opening the town's commercial life. "Kindermaskenball" relives
the annual parade of costumed children straggling along San Antonio Street.
The town's few blacks are briefly mentioned as servants and workmen. A long
chapter "Wildfire," considers a Latin American laborer who is involved in a
mysterious fire.
Dates are added to each story and English translations of German words.
However, Schutzenverein, a shooting club, was less a "Defense Society" than a
social gathering of marksmen and their families. Barbara Whitehead's book
cover illustration shows a typical Fredericksburg Sunday house.
Minetta Altgelt Goyne's stories are like history preserved in amber.
A Sniper in the Tower: The Charles Whitman Murders. By Gary M. Lavergne.
(Denton: University of North Texas Press, 1997. Pp. xiii+324. Prologue,
illustrations, epilogue, notes on the sources, acknowledgments, index. ISBN
1-57441-029-6. $18.95, paper.)
A Sniper in the Tower is something of a landmark because it is the first full-
length book to attempt to make sense out of the tangled, tragic story of Charles
Joseph Whitman and the people he murdered or wounded in Austin on August
1, 1966. This event, along with the assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963,
marks the point at which Texas, and indeed, the nation, left an age of innocence
and entered one of anxiety and uncertainty.
Atypical of mainstream "true crime" books, the respectful tone and academic
detachment of Lavergne's prose prevent it from being another lurid peep into a
criminal's deranged mind. However, readers of all levels will ask the same ques-
tion: "Why did he do it?" Lavergne's assertion that Whitman was not motivated
by any of the numerous suspected agents (tumor, drugs, insanity) but that he
simply decided to become a murderer is argued unconvincingly. The author's
theory of ambiguity is a good one, but neither it nor the other possible motives
are explored deeply enough.
Rather than give the details of each and every victim of the sniper,
Lavergne judiciously chooses to focus on the more dramatic anecdotes. The
chapters on Whitman's in-laws and on the two Austin policemen who took
down Whitman are particularly well researched and written. Even more note-
worthy is the chapter "The General," in which the formidable marshaling



Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 101, July 1997 - April, 1998. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. Accessed December 1, 2015.