Sunday, January 3, 2010

Alamo Bookshelf 1: A Line in the Sand, In the Footsteps of Davy Crockett & The Blazing Dawn

As each new year begins, I'm reminded that March 6 is fast approaching, and my thoughts turn to Texas and the events of that date in 1836. I usually take the opportunity to pull a book or two off my Alamo bookshelf for a refresher course in Texas history. Well, this year I'm doing something different. I'm going to pull all the books off that shelf, both fiction and non-fiction, and present sort of a survey of the field. Here's the first batch:

A LINE IN THE SAND by Randy Roberts and James S. Olsen (2001)
If you're going to read just one book about the Alamo, this is it. And if you're going to read a lot of them, this is the place to start. This book presents a clear and detailed picture of the issues on both sides of the conflict, delivers a striking picture of the battle itself and sweeps on into the present, discussing the impact of Walt Disney and John Wayne and introducing some of the current controversies. An intelligent and well-written book.

This travelogue traces Davy's footsteps from Tennessee to Texas, providing a picture of what Crockett saw then, and what's left for us to see today, complete with photographs. As a boy, Davy ventured east as far as Baltimore, and the Creek War took him south into Alabama, Mississippi and Spanish Florida. And of course his policking took him to Washington, Philadelphia and points north. It's all here, and all mighty interesting.

THE BLAZING DAWN by James Wakefield Burke (1975)
Heck, they can't all be good. This "tempestuous saga of the Alamo", titled Devil on the Wall in hardcover (1987), is much more at home between the covers of this sleazy paperback. I like the concept - a historical novel weaving the separate stories of Crockett, Bowie and Travis into one as they come together at the Alamo. But the cover blurb pretty much says it all. "A brawling, lusty epic . . . the story of three giant heroes and their daring women."  It's heavy on smut and light on history, much like the author's attempt at writing a Crockett biography (to be discussed later).


James Reasoner said...

Was THE BLAZING DAWN one of those books packaged by Lyle Kenyon Engel before he founded Book Creations Inc., or am I thinking of something else?

Laurie Powers said...

Great idea, Dave and much appreciated. As a lover of history books, I'm always looking for the good authoritative books on a subject and this helps.

Evan Lewis said...

Shucks, James. I'd never heard of that dude, so I looked him up. Sounds like an interesting tale.

The Blazing Dawn was published in paperback in 1975, which seems to be nine years after Engel's death. The hardcover, Devil on the Wall, was issued by McClellan House of Waxahatchie, TX in 1987, and appears to be a perfectly respectable book. Burke is said to be a syndicated newspaper columnist living in Dallas, and this was supposedly is 15th major book, which has "solidified his reputation as one of the nation's most important writers of historical fiction." Yeah, right.

I used to watch your show, Laurie. (Or should we call you Marlo?)

James Reasoner said...

That's a lot more about Burke than I knew. I'm not sure why I connected this book to Lyle Engel in my mind. By the way, Engel didn't die until the mid-Eighties. I talked to him on the phone once around '84 or '85, when I started writing books for his packaging company.