They Saw Dallas as a Literary Hub, Then Got to Work Making It One

When Will Evans arrived in Dallas just over a decade ago, he had a degree in Russian literature, a passion for “reading the world,” and a bold vision: to create a publishing house dedicated to translating the best books in any language into English and bringing their authors into conversation with American — and especially Texan — writers and readers.

He started going to the readings and other literary events around town and posted about them under the hashtag #literarydallas. “I was made fun of relentlessly,” he said.

But in 2013, around the same time he started his publishing house, Deep Vellum, two other people — Javier García del Moral and Paco Vique, civil engineers from Spain — were hatching their own literary plans. They wanted to start a bookstore that would be something more: a community hangout and incubator of new ideas, where the conversation and mezcal would flow deep into the night. It opened in 2014 and they named it Wild Detectives, in loose homage to Roberto Bolaño’s wild-at-heart masterwork “Savage Detectives.”

Soon, they picked up the #literarydallas hashtag, too. So did The Dallas Morning News. Suddenly the idea was no longer a laughing matter, but something real, willed into existence, Evans said.

“You have to say it, ‘We are a literary city.’ And a literary city is not just a publishing house or bookstores or writers or readers. It’s the entire thing,” Evans said from Deep Vellum’s headquarters in the storied and diverse Deep Ellum neighborhood.

Today Dallas is home to one of the most dynamic, international literary scenes in the country, inspired in many ways by the infectious, D.I.Y. energy of Deep Vellum, now one of the country’s largest publishers of translated literature, and Wild Detectives. Their fates have been twined from the start, and this past weekend they threw a joint 10th-ish anniversary celebration at the bookstore that lasted three days and felt more house party than book party.

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