Passionate Nation: The Epic History of Texas

James Haley, Author . Free Press $35 (656p) ISBN 978-0-684-86291-0

Texas native Haley (Sam Houston: A Life ) does an outstanding job of narrating the outsized and dramatic history of the Lone Star State. John Steinbeck observed, "Like most passionate nations, Texas has its own private history based on, but not limited by, facts." Cognizant of this, Haley takes pains to separate folklore from fact. He's a good storyteller, but then it's hard to go wrong with the colorful characters he has to work with: pioneer nationalists Sam Houston and Davy Crockett, Quaker abolitionist Benjamin Lundy, a wagonload of liquored-up turn-of-the-century oilmen and such latter-day heroes as Lyndon Johnson, John Connally and Janis Joplin. Importantly, Haley goes beyond the basic themes in Texas history—politics, finance, civil rights and natural disasters—to study the dusty byroads of Texas culture. A particularly engaging chapter documents one of the all-time great trios of American regional literature—J. Frank Dobie, Walter Prescott Webb and Roy Bedichek—while also appraising such Texas-born literary icons as Katherine Anne Porter, Horton Foote and Fred Gipson (Old Yeller ). With this rich and entertaining history, Haley adds his name, indelibly, to this list of native writers his state should be rightfully proud of. 16 pages of b&w photos, maps, not seen by PW . (Apr. 17)

Reviewed on: 02/06/2006
Release date: 04/01/2006
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 672 pages - 978-1-57441-857-6
Paperback - 636 pages - 978-1-4391-1018-8
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