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Empire of Bones: A Novel of Sam Houston and the Texas Revolution Hardcover – February, 1993


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow & Co; 1st edition (February 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0688122523
  • ISBN-13: 978-0688122522
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.1 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,558,652 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Long , a trenchant critic of Texas mythologizing in such historical studies as Duel of Eagles, takes a fictional look at the origins of his home state in his third novel (after The Ascent) . Subtitled A Novel of Sam Houston and the Mexican Revolution , it opens on March 6, 1836, with the fall of the Alamo and the slaughter of Davy Crockett and other unarmed survivors at the order of Mexican commander Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. Two hundred miles away, Sam Houston, major general of the Army of the Republic of Texas, leads a ragtag mob in flight from Santa Anna. When the would-be Americans turn at bay in San Jacinto, their savage victory demonstrates that war atrocities are rarely confined to one side or one culture. Less concerned with citing historical details than with establishing a psychological climate, Long portrays Houston, his captains and the San Jacinto rank and file not as the demigods of Texas legend but as flawed human beings who became heroes in spite of themselves. His gritty yet poetic retelling of the fight for Texas's independence from Mexico probes moral dilemmas as well as tactical maneuvers.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

A standard hagiography of Sam Houston would present a leader possessed of calm self-confidence, a general whose competence brought victory over enormous odds. This is not the Sam Houston we see in Long's revisionist novel of the Texas Revolution. Houston is all too human, an ordinary man swept along by events who doubts both himself and his control over the ragtag assemblage of reprobates that constituted the Texan armed forces of 1836. Far from glorious, the struggle for Texas resembles a Balkan war--a gory, gritty, and dehumanizing series of outrages, catastrophes, and blunders leading to a victory that surprised both Houston and his army. While it may be controversial in Texas, Long's novel will appeal to readers of Bernard Cornwell's "Sharpe" books and is recommended for historical fiction collections.-- Stanley Planton, Ohio Univ.
Chillicothe Lib.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

3.1 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Phil Graf on June 11, 2002
Format: Hardcover
First of all, the book is well-researched and quite entertaining. However, Long goes too far in his efforts to knock the Texas heroes from their pedestals. Instead of deifying them, he takes the exact opposite extreme with the end result being just as unrealistic and unbelieveable. The tone of the description on the cover is also quite arrogant, proclaming the possible execution as described in the book as a proven fact, ignoring the inconclusive nature of the evidence.
The book itself is full of good information, yet stretches the reader's imagination to believe that Sam Houston was nothing more than a lucky, bumbling fool who essentially did nothing and led nowhere and that the Texas Army was nothing more than a roving band of inhuman animals whose lust for land and money was responsible for the "massacre" at San Jacinto. Once again, the cover description seems to suggest that Long is the first to discover the "true nature" of the battle, as if no one else had previously figured it out. Additionally, the Mexican atrocities at the Alamo and Goliad are mentioned, but Long seems to only hold Santa Anna accountable for the slaughter at those events.
Essentially, it could have been a good book if the author was not attempting to prove an impossible point. Long had an opportunity to give a realistic portrayal of the epic conflict and failed by making Crockett, Houston and the Texas Army just as unbelievable as the demigods that they have been made out to be in the past.
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By Stephen Lentz on March 15, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Too much evilness.
Jeff Long does an excellent job as a novelist, but when he tampers with the Alamo, he stinks.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A. J. Woods on August 6, 2001
Format: Hardcover
About two-thirds through this work, I wondered why I was reading it. Houston is so thoroughly painted with a Hamlet-like melancholy that the book becomes lifeless. Indeed, according to Long, Houston was impotant in command and in character: unable to win over his officers and fearful of the mob that was his army. When placed in a position to administer justice, he waivers. He becomes a bystander to the events that stretch between the battles of the Alamo and of San Jacinto. Chapter after chapter foreshadows the battle of San Jacinto as a massacre brought on by the barbarity of the American volunteers. Yet Long (as Houston) also cries for the lost innocence of these settlers and fortune-seekers. But when the battle finally comes, Houston's actions are buffoonish. The killing is labeled criminal, but seldom described so. And perhaps that is the real flaw. There is a lack of description of events. There is a lot of wailing about death and the scattering of bones, but no action. Long wants to work both ways. He wants to condemn the events at San Jacinto - register it as the mark of Cain on the forehead of Texas, but he neither faults Houston nor the Texan army. The former is incapable of handling his men. The latter are no more than undisciplined children. Of other interest, there is a dramatic prologue featuring Davy Crockett at the Alamo, a ridiculous sexual encounter between Houston and a wealthy refugee, and of course the almost required parting shot at Santa Anna as an egomaniacal fop hated even by his aide.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Doug Vaughn HALL OF FAME on December 16, 1999
Format: Hardcover
This is a very enjoyable work of historical fiction. The character of Sam Houston is one of those American originals that seem so perfect for fiction that it is hard to believe he ever really lived. The exaggerated aspects of character - the dramatic costumes, high intelligence, temper, ambition, sensitivity, appitite and energy - all seem to be perfectly Texan, perfectly larger than life. Any number of good accounts of his life could be, and have been, written. What makes this retelling of the period of his life when he fought the Battle of San Jacinto significant is that it isn't simply a tale of the good guy Texans getting revenge on Santa Anna and the bad guy Mexicans. In this more balanced and reasoned telling of the tale, that great variety of human ambitions and greed that spark most wars and revolutions, is shown as a prominant part of the struggle to wrest Texas from Mexico.
The cast of characters is interesting and the depiction of that early period in Texas history seems realistic and believable. The climactic battle of San Jacinto is told in hard detail and the probably over bloody response to the surprised Mexican forces shows that whatever cruelties the Mexicans were willing to meet out to those at the Alamo, their avengers were capable of as well.
A really interesting and satisfyfing book. I don't know if Texans would go for it, but this Tennessean sure did.
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