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Galveston: A History of the Island (Chisholm Trail Series) Paperback – August 1, 1998

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Editorial Reviews

From Kirkus Reviews

Adroitly told popular history of Galveston Island--a barrier island off the Texas coast that's a string of sand 30 miles long, so narrow it can be walked across in half an hour. Occupied continuously since 1400, Galveston Island hosted Cabaza de Vaca, La Salle, and Jean Lafitte before Texas was a republic, and by the 20th century had developed an upper crust among the jasmine and honeysuckled Victorian mansions so snobbish that a bride sent wedding invitations to total strangers if her grandparents spent the night with their grandparents during the 1900 hurricane. Cartwright (Dirty Dealing, 1984, etc.) opens with the first inhabitants, the Karankawa Indians, whose men were often six feet tall, making them appear like giants to Europeans. The Karankawas were reclusive, raided other villages for women to marry and children to eat, and devoured the flesh of enemy braves while the latter were still alive. Cartwright devotes later individual chapters to the men who shaped Galveston Island, such as Jean Lafitte, the greatest privateer and smuggler of the 19th century, who made the island the headquarters of his fleet in 1817, built a town called Campeachy, and devised the New World's largest slave market, where blacks captured from Spanish slaving vessels were sold for a dollar a pound. Cartwright tells of Sam Houston, retreating from Santa Anna until his back was to Galveston Island and launching a huge and vicious attack that finally won Texas independence; gives a white-knuckle, minute-to- minute account of the hurricane of September 7, 1900, recorded as the worst disaster in US history (7000 perished); describes the Prohibition years when Galveston Island was a rum-running center and the playground of Texas; and introduces us to Galveston Island's present-day citizens, including the Moodys--owners of a $2 billion empire whose internecine wars and peccadilloes are worthy of a book to themselves. More high points than can be listed; expertly told and pleasurably interesting. -- Copyright ©1991, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

Galveston reads like a well-crafted novel that is chock-full of eccentric characters, surprising plot twists and the heavy hand of fate. -- Dallas Times-Herald

Gary Cartwright is one of the most gifted journalists to come out of Texas . . . and Galveston is one of the most resonant places in the mythic state. -- American Way Magazine

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Product Details

  • Series: Chisholm Trail Series (Book 18)
  • Paperback: 344 pages
  • Publisher: Texas Christian University Press (August 1, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0875651909
  • ISBN-13: 978-0875651903
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 5.9 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #563,148 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 22, 1999
Format: Paperback
This is simply the best and most entertaining historical study that I've ever had the pleasure of reading. It literally made me laugh out loud as well as tear up several times. I can't say enough wonderful things about this book. It reads like a very well written novel whose topic is endlessly fascinating. I've given it as a present several times since I first read it about 10 or 11 years ago and the recipients have all been as thrilled with it as I've been.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 6, 1997
Format: Hardcover
I rarely read history for pleasure ( I lean more towards murder mysteries), but I read this on the recommendation of a stranger in the local library. I was pleasantly surprised at the breadth of content which the author managed to cover in a way that reads like a popular novel. It never gets boring, but I'm sure that I irritated my husband by laughing out loud a time or two and insisting he listen to a few paragraphs. Since I grew up near Galveston and spent days on the beach from infancy to last month, I'm probably biased, but I think this book would appeal to many. Enjoy!!
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By tracy conner on October 2, 2001
Format: Paperback
This books gives a detailed history of the island of Galveston from it's first inhabitants to present day. Unlike some historical accounts this book is a real "page turner," completely absorbing the reader in each different time period from hostile indians to mafia men. The author lays out areas on the island to explore as well as important historical landmarks. He helps one understand the rise and fall of the island's fame and fortune along with it's leading families. I highly recommend it whether you are visiting Galveston or you are just interested in history.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By a reader on May 16, 2005
Format: Paperback
Anyone who begins a book on Galveston by describing it as haunted knows his Galveston. A wonderful history and guide to the island by someone who truly appreciates its uniqueness. I have a bookshelf of Galveston books that I love and this one is on it.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Cathy L. Hitchcock on September 26, 2009
Format: Paperback
Galveston may have the most interesting history of any town or city in the U.S., under 6 flags and loaded with the dramatic--cannibalism, warfare, pirates, slavery, prostitution, illegal gambling, the worst natural disaster in U.S. history--you name it. Gary Cartwright's book is by FAR the best read about this fascinating subject. This is a real page turner, and when it comes to 20th century, he covers lots of ground absent from the other histories of Galveston. However, his book is filled with inaccuracies, albeit in many cases relatively minor and arguably not of great importance to the non-scholar. He excuses himself both for the potential inaccuracies and for the total lack of documentation by admitting that he's not a historian. But does that give the author the write to make stuff up or do shoddy investigating? Docents at several of the Galveston mansions are literally forbidden from reading the book, for fear that it would inevitably lead those docents to spout erroneous statements abvout Galveston. And because Cartwright's book is so much more fun than all the others, it's likely that his less-than-accurate tale will stick in the reader's memory far longer than the more accurate but vastly drier accounts by McComb, Fornell, Hayes, and others. As long as you're not a scholar and concerned with total truth, if you just want to have a good time reading about Galveston this is the ONLY book to read. Otherwise, better stay away.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By K.L. on June 4, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I would have loved to give this book a 5 star review. Very readable, it was an excellent framework for appreciating the history of this city. However, the book was marred by a steady drumbeat of political correctness. This included a rather unusual defense of the cannibalistic Karankawa aboriginal culture (I give him points for originality there!) From beginning to end, the book was peppered with sarcastic (usually spurious) references to Christianity. All grownups realize that there are some people who will try to hide or justify their wrong actions under a religious facade. Toward the end of the book, the author's analysis of the wealthy Moody family was negative, one-sided and vastly unfair. His implication that the Moody foundation was somehow hijacked by right-wing fanatics during the 1980's came across as a bit looney. My analysis: 80% enjoyment, 20% tiresome. If political correctness doesn't bother you, you will love the book. Otherwise, you will enjoy it but wish for a better product.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Shannon Deason on May 13, 2005
Format: Paperback
This is the most facinating and interesting book. It's amazing how much history this small island has to tell. I grew up going to Galveston and have always loved the city, but I had no idea it had this much history. You really won't be able to put this book down, every section is more intersting than the previous. Mr. Carwright has always known how to weave a tale. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in facinating history, written in a compelling way. Be aware that after you read this book you will have the most incredible desire to visit this wonderful island. Galveston is truly a treasure and I always tell anyone visiting the Houston area to make it their top priority.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Mickey on May 6, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In the introduction to Galveston, Gary Cartwright acknowledges that he is a journalist not a historian. As such, he states his goal is to provide a "portrait" of the character of Galveston Island. There are two problems with this approach.

The first problem is particularly evident in the first couple of chapters which are written in a way more suited to a periodical than a book. In these chapters Mr. Cartwright talks of the personality of "present day" Galveston and writes a brief travelogue, complete with restaurant reviews, of his time spent researching this book. He also writes of condos and beach erosion. Now that the book is 22 years old, these observations are no longer relevant, and in some cases, laughably inaccurate.

The other problem is that as a magazine journalist Gary Cartwright values story above historical evidence. I admire that he was never so dishonest that he did not admit when evidence was scarce or non-existent. He also readily acknowledged stories that consisted more of legend and myth than history. However I felt constantly frustrated after reading pages of a cracking yarn that concluded with a sentence or two letting the reader know that the preceding story was probably a fiction or based very loosely in fact. Often, the prose would then move to different subject matter without actually addressing what WAS supported by evidence or fact. After a while, I found myself doubting everything I read, especially if the story seemed particularly interesting.

History is about more than good stories from the past. History is how those stories are known, how accurate those stories are, and how legend differs from evidence. History is in the methodology and gathering of evidence, not just the story telling.

Overall, I was disappointed in Galveston: A History of the Island . It is an entertaining read, but it is light on history and heavy on stories.
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