Empire of Bones: A Novel of Sam Houston and the Texas Revolution

Empire of Bones: A Novel of Sam Houston and the Texas Revolution

by Jeff Long

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Long , a trenchant critic of Texas mythologizing in such historical studies as Duel of Eagles, takes a fictional look at the origins of his home state in his third novel (after The Ascent) . Subtitled A Novel of Sam Houston and the Mexican Revolution , it opens on March 6, 1836, with the fall of the Alamo and the slaughter of Davy Crockett and other unarmed survivors at the order of Mexican commander Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. Two hundred miles away, Sam Houston, major general of the Army of the Republic of Texas, leads a ragtag mob in flight from Santa Anna. When the would-be Americans turn at bay in San Jacinto, their savage victory demonstrates that war atrocities are rarely confined to one side or one culture. Less concerned with citing historical details than with establishing a psychological climate, Long portrays Houston, his captains and the San Jacinto rank and file not as the demigods of Texas legend but as flawed human beings who became heroes in spite of themselves. His gritty yet poetic retelling of the fight for Texas's independence from Mexico probes moral dilemmas as well as tactical maneuvers. ( Feb. )
Library Journal
A standard hagiography of Sam Houston would present a leader possessed of calm self-confidence, a general whose competence brought victory over enormous odds. This is not the Sam Houston we see in Long's revisionist novel of the Texas Revolution. Houston is all too human, an ordinary man swept along by events who doubts both himself and his control over the ragtag assemblage of reprobates that constituted the Texan armed forces of 1836. Far from glorious, the struggle for Texas resembles a Balkan war--a gory, gritty, and dehumanizing series of outrages, catastrophes, and blunders leading to a victory that surprised both Houston and his army. While it may be controversial in Texas, Long's novel will appeal to readers of Bernard Cornwell's ``Sharpe'' books and is recommended for historical fiction collections.-- Stanley Planton, Ohio Univ.-Chillicothe Lib.
Gilbert Taylor
Last seen atop Mt. Everest ("The Ascent" ), Long descends to the plains of Texas circa 1836; Long's fancy lies behind Gen'l Houston's eyes, which view the affrays at the Alamo, Goliad, and San Jacinto as wholesale executions and massacres dignified as battles. Houston's main problems are those of command: persuading his rabble of American insurgents to flee the stronger Santa Anna, and imposing discipline on subordinate officers and soldiers champing at the bit for gold, glory, and gore. With lids down and in a somnolent or solitary mood, a frequently used expression of his hero's mood, Long sends Sam's mind down memory lane to better days as Old Hickory's protege, allusions diligent consumers of recent biographies will instantly grasp (e.g., "Sword of San Jacinto" by de Bruhl ). Battlefield preparation thus complete, the novel advances its second half on to the gruesomeness of San Jacinto, where Houston's blood-up boys skewered every available Mexican. Though this adventure and portrait of Houston's state of mind will appeal to dedicated Tejanos, who might open fire on some detail or other, the many not so dedicated won't tarry to take aim.

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HarperCollins Publishers
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1st ed

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