New books, new readings

Books bought:

Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling

Books read:

The Borderland by Edwin Shrake

The verdict: A historical novel blended with myth and fantasy set in the early days of the Republic of Texas. I’ve never read anything of Shrake’s before, despite his prominence in Texas literature. In this novel, though, he slips some with his overwrought exposition of minor characters, such as Mr. Maurice, the manager of the Fincus Hotel in San Antonio. There are several points of plot: There is Romulus and Cullasaja Swift, brother and sister, on a quest to find a legendary ape creature in the hills near what will be Austin. There is the movement of the capital from Houston to Austin. There is the pending marriage of Texas Ranger Capt. Matthew Caldwell, and his patrol of borders of the Republic. The stories merge as the novel wraps up in the battle of Plum Creek, when a band of betrayed Comanches tries to take revenge by attacking Austin. Throughout the novel Shrake blends in historical figures such as Caldwell and Sam Houston with fictional characters such as the Swifts (or I take the Swifts to be fictional). As far as the historical personages, I was told that Shrake takes much liberty, especially with Caldwell. From what I gather, Sam Houston gets used liberally, too. I think Stephen Harrigan’s potrayal of Houston in The Gates of the Alamo, portrays Houston better, scraping away more of the legend than Shrake does. Shrake seems to work with the legendary Old Chief, playing up the wild drunk and womanizer who evades family and seems to lead by default, his leadership accepted as a cult of personality develops around him.


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