Douglas Brinkley: Prolific author moves to Austin for the music and vibe and research sources after taking Rice University teaching job

Historians in the News

It's not at all hard to explain. Music helps prominent and prolific historian and author Douglas Brinkley write. Austin has lots of music.

So here Brinkley, his wife and three children are, settling into their big new house in Stratford Hills off Red Bud Trail, Brinkley having just left his job at Tulane University in New Orleans — where he was director of the Theodore Roosevelt Center for American Civilization and a history professor — for a new post at Rice University in Houston.

Said Rice Provost Eugene Levy, in a statement announcing Brinkley's move in mid-May: "His work on contemporary American history and politics resonates across a broad spectrum of public interest, and his interpretive commentaries in the broadcast media are informative and widely watched."

This is indeed a coup for Rice, which has made a deal with one of a relative handful of historians who are well-known outside academia, and for Austin, where Brinkley already has many friends. It also makes Brinkley arguably Austin's most prominent Hurricane Katrina refugee.

Brinkley is author of the Katrina book "The Great Deluge," which won the 2007 Robert F. Kennedy Book Award and was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year for its combination of history, journalism and survivor anger, and "The Boys of Pointe du Hoc," about a D-Day invasion battle that President Reagan invoked in speeches, now optioned as a movie by Warner Bros. Most recently, he is editor of "The Reagan Diaries" (HarperCollins), chosen for the job by Nancy

Reagan shortly after the former president's death in 2004. Regarded as well-connected and something of a media darling, Brinkley was famously spanked by Slate's David Plotz for overexposure in the aftermath of John F. Kennedy Jr.'s death. But there's no questioning his work ethic or his ambition: "I'm grabbing 20th-century America by the scruff of the neck," he said.

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