The Borderland: A Novel of Texas

Edwin B. Shrake, Author
Edwin B. Shrake, Author Hyperion Books $24.95 (432p) ISBN 978-0-7868-6579-6
Reviewed on: 04/03/2000
Release date: 04/01/2000
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Tall tales combine with authentic historical characters in this rambling novel by the author of The Blessed McGill, describing the dramatic formative years of Texas. In the frontier town of Austin, the adventures of (fictional) half-Cherokee Dr. Romulus Swift and his beautiful sister, Cullasaja, intersect with those of a real Lone Star hero, Texas Ranger Captain Matthew Caldwell, who earned the epithet ""The Paul Revere of Texas"" during the Texas revolution. Other historical figures appear in abundant cameos, including Sam Houston; Chief Bow; Mirabeau B. Lamar, second president of the republic of Texas; a young Albert Sidney Johnston; and Mary Maverick, wife of the famed San Antonio livestock mogul. Add to the mix a cast of unsavory fictional players and Shrake's narrative becomes melodramatic and generally chaotic. Swift, fashioned after one of Shrake's ancestors, is possibly the most implausible character in the novel. He is on a quest to find the mysterious ""apeman"" held sacred by the Comanches, from whom he hopes to obtain some mystical wisdom. Meanwhile, Captain Caldwell struts uselessly around the state and anachronistically argues political correctness with Lamar, while awaiting the arrival of his mail-order German bride, Hannah. The main plotline involves the infamous Council House Massacre and Battle of the Neches, two treacherous incidents in which Lamar initiated his ultimately successful program of ousting all Indians from Texas. The book climaxes with the sensational Linnville Raid and Battle of Plum Creek, which set a pattern of warfare between Texans and Comanches for the next 35 years; while the historical events are retold aptly, the narrative thread connecting all the characters is easily lost. (Apr.)
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