By Allison Plake
*Editor’s Note: 10:00 p.m. Sept 26 – This story has been edited throughout.
Celebrated author Skip Hollandsworth recently walked an SMU audience through a timeline of gruesome events surrounding a string of murders that occurred in Austin, Texas between 1884 and 1885. Using vivid language and photographs, Hollandsworth composed a picture of what the city may have looked like at the time of the murders. His latest book “The Midnight Assassin: Panic, Scandal, and the hunt for America’s First Serial Killer” details the evidence found in connection to the murders and presents a poignant tale of an unsolved mystery.
“Austin was transforming from a sepia-toned old west town into a new age. The phrase ‘everything is bigger in Texas’ existed even at that time,” said Hollandsworth as the crowd chuckled.
The lecture attracted about 50 people as Hollandsworth kicked off the six-part, lunchtime lecture series Wednesday, hosted by the Clements Center for Southwest Studies, and co-sponsored by the Friends of the SMU Libraries. Beginning at 1:00 p.m. in Hyer Hall, students, faculty, and guests were invited to attend the presentation followed by a short book signing and question and answer session.
Tommie Ethington, a Dallas resident who attended the lecture after reading Hollandsworth’s book, said, “I was fascinated by learning about the history of Austin. You learn so much about the city in addition to the murders.”
The Center for Southwest Studies puts on public programming each year, beginning with the lunchtime series, in an effort to promote their own research fellows and to engage a broad public interest.
“I have worked with Skip on a couple of events in the past and I thought his book would be a great way to begin the year,” said Andrew Graybill, co-director of Clements Center for Southwest Studies.