The Gates of the Alamo

by Stephen Harrigan

Publishers Weekly : Settling his fictional cast firmly at the heart of 19th-century Texas, novelist Harrigan (Jacob's Well) retells the story of the Alamo with consummate skill, weaving a wealth of historical detail into a tight, moving human drama. Mary Mott, honest widow and frontier innkeeper near the Gulf Coast; her 16-year-old son, Terrell; an itinerant, fiercely independent botanist named Edmund McGowan; and a small collection of soldiers in Santa Anna's army are among those whose lives are disrupted as factions within the rebellious Mexican state unite in the common cause of independence. In a serpentine plot that never runs dull, Harrigan traces the growing war fever, beginning in 1835, neatly avoiding political debate by presenting the various arguments plainly from each point of view. When Terrell runs away after an emotionally disturbed girl, who is pregnant with his child, commits suicide, his mother and McGowan follow after him. All three wind up in the Alamo and are caught in the futile and ill-conceived 1836 battle on the outskirts of San Antonio de B xar. Faced with the formidable chore of handling such monumental legends as William Travis, James Bowie, David Crockett, Sam Houston and, of course, Santa Anna, Harrigan takes a judicious middle path, treating them respectfully but not smoothing over their flaws. Strict traditionalists may bridle at the deft ease with which Harrigan manipulates the bloody siege to allow a sentimental conclusion to his novel, and exacting historians may note his glossing of Mexican tactics in the final storming of the old mission, though the gore and guts of 19th-century combat are faithfully rendered. Yet Harrigan has crafted a compulsively readable historical drama on a grand scale, peopled with highly believable frontier personalities--Mexican as well as American--and suffused with period authenticity. 100,000 first printing; 11-city author tour. (Mar.)

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School Library Journal : YA-In a 90-minute predawn battle on March 6, 1836, some 2000 Mexican Army soldiers stormed the Alamo, killing all of the defenders (they numbered fewer than 200). Americans have been remembering the Alamo ever since, perhaps not always accurately. Harrigan has produced a novel that is more concerned with history than myth. The result is a readable, evenhanded story that blends real and fictional personages, both American and Mexican, to convey a balanced rendition of the conflict. The diverse cast includes Joe, William Travis's slave; Blas Montoya, the caring, capable commander of a Mexican rifle company; Edmund McGowan, a botanist employed by the Mexican government; Lt. Villasenor, Santa Anna's mapmaker; the main character, 16-year-old "Texian" Terrell Mott; and his mother. Through their experiences, readers witness the inevitable consequences when governments, ethnic groups, and individuals cannot or will not understand one another. The novel begins and ends in 1911 with 91-year-old Terrell's participation in San Antonio's Battle of the Flowers parade. The narrative flows smoothly even as it reveals an impressive amount of historical research. Dialogue and story line convey such an abundance of detail that even a neophyte to Texas history will feel connected to the plot. Some YAs may find the length daunting, but those willing to give Harrigan's novel the time it deserves will be glad they did.-Dori DeSpain, Herndon Fortnightly Library, Fairfax County, VA

Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information, Inc. Distributed by Syndetic Solutions Inc. Terms

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