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Elizabeth Crook's 'Monday Monday' Revisits UT's Infamous Tower Shooting

Samantha Ortega for Texas Standard

There are few incidents in Texas history as compelling as the UT Tower shooting.

On August 1, 1966, a UT student and ex-marine named Charles Whitman climbed to the top of the UT Tower and opened fire on the pedestrians below. 16 people were killed. Dozens were injured. It was the first mass shooting on a US college campus. And it changed many lives.

Austin novelist Elizabeth Crook has used the events of that day to craft a vivid and emotional novel, "Monday, Monday." She told KUT's Emily Donahue that she felt some qualms about her subject matter. She began writing in 2006. And as she wrote, several school shootings occurred, from Virginia Tech to Sandy Hook.

"Suddenly I knew I was dealing with, you know, not just with a historic event but a national situation," Crook says. "On the news you see these people who are affected by these events interviewed immediately for the first maybe three or four days. But we don't know what happens 40 years later to people who were wounded, whose lives were completely taken off course."

Crook says she wanted to follow the 40 years in the lives of her three main characters that came after the shooting.  Shelley Maddox is an average girl who wants to apply to the Peace Corps. She is shot by Charles Whitman before she is able to cross the Plaza on the South Mall. Shelley is rescued by two cousins, Wyatt and Jack. Jack is also wounded. Wyatt drags Shelley behind a bush to shield her from Whitman's gaze and the burning sun. 

Crook says she was particularly interested in exploring the emotional ties created through surviving a traumatic event. The Boston Marathon bombings, she said, created so many bonds between strangers. 

"One other interesting thing about the Boston incident that I felt so touching and tragic was the fact that so many people afterwards wondered why they had not gone to help;  why other people were running toward the tragedy while they were running away from it and then questioned what that meant about them and were disturbed," she says. …And later, in a number of different ways tried to make that right."

"Monday Monday" hits stores April 29. Crook will be at Austin's BookPeople that Tuesday at 7 p.m.

Emily Donahue is a former grants writer for KUT. She previously served as news director and helped launch KUT’s news department in 2001.
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