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Making Sense

Historian, author and Cars sheriff Michael Wallis knows what it means to be an Oklahoman.

Susannah Waite June 6th, 2012

Michael Wallis
3 p.m. Sunday
Full Circle Bookstore
1900 Northwest Expressway

After requests from fans, historian Michael Wallis has turned a speech into his latest book. Oklahoma: A Sense of Place, which he’ll sign Sunday at Full Circle Bookstore, began life as a public address Jan. 6 at the Tulsa Town Hall.

“I carefully crafted a speech that had to do with my own personal experience of coming to Oklahoma as a fully grown man, as an adult, and making the decision to move here and become a naturalized Okie,” he said.

It urged listeners to find their sense of place, wherever it might be, but also to find a sense of pride in their state.

“After I gave that speech, immediately I was stormed with requests for copies — emails, text, Facebook, personal requests,” he said. “There were so many requests coming in that I talked to my agent in New York, and he said, ‘Well, let’s publish it.’” Wallis encourages readers to visit to submit their own descriptions and photographs of places they call home.

“You could have a sense of place about a state or a city or a neighborhood or a cathedral or a beer joint or a campus or a natural landmark or a region,” he said. “What we’ll eventually do later in the year is go out and film some of these places with the people.”

Wallis, whose works have included biographies of “Pretty Boy” Floyd and Davy Crockett, is mulling topics for his next book. Between volumes, he stays busy giving speeches, many related to the American West.

Those hearing Wallis speak may recognize his tone and cadence. He voiced Sheriff, the police car in Pixar’s two Cars films — and the resulting shorts, video games and cartoon series — a role he won largely because of his 1990 nonfiction book, Route 66: The Mother Road.

“In mid-June, I’m going to join the rest of the cast and crew from the Cars movies, which I helped inspire, [to celebrate the opening] of Cars Land, a 12-acre park nestled right next to Disneyland, so the village of Radiator Springs comes to life,” Wallis said.

Before he motors off to California, however, he has one last pit stop to make in Oklahoma.

“I will not just be signing books [at Full Circle], but also doing some readings, visiting and speaking,” Wallis said. “Especially visiting with those who come there, and I welcome them all.”

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