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The Diezmo: A Novel Hardcover – May 13, 2005

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; First Edition edition (May 13, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0395926173
  • ISBN-13: 978-0395926178
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.8 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,464,562 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Whether Bass is writing his profoundly affecting narrative nonfiction, which includes Caribou Rising (2004), or such spellbinding short story collections as The Hermit's Story (2002), he expresses awe over life's glory and ruefulness over humankind's folly. Bass has now perfected his novelist's voice in this commanding tale inspired by the Mier Expedition, an infamous chapter in the brief and bloody story of the Republic of Texas. Bass' eminently trustworthy narrator, James Alexander, is still in his teens when he and a friend impulsively join a militia ordered by Sam Houston to patrol the border with Mexico, but which, instead, turns rogue, crosses the Rio Grande, and slaughters innocent people and soldiers alike. James and many of his worse-for-wear cohorts are captured, shackled, put to work building a road, then imprisoned in an isolated, vermin-infested mountain fortress, all the while suffering brutal deprivations and terrors (one Mexican commander enforces the diezmo, or tithe, arbitrarily executing 1 prisoner in 10). As Bass recounts the prisoners' epic suffering and consequential stoicism, he achieves the molten beauty, compassion, and longing for justice found in Stephen Crane's Red Badge of Courage and the novels of B. Traven and Cormac McCarthy. But he also articulates his signature passion for life's endless improvisations and persistence as manifest in everything from the grandeur of desert landscapes to lice, orchids, jaguars, a young woman in love, and even the cruelty and aberrations of men entangled in illegitimate warfare, a tragic practice we seem doomed to perpetuate generation after generation. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved


"I loved the Diezmo. . .I loved the calm of the narrator even in the presence of death." --Terry Tempest Williams

"Rick Bass is one of our best writers. The Diezmo is further proof; a vivid, graphic, harrowing tale of wild men and bad blood, a fable universal and timeless in its application." --Kent Haruf

"Once in a long while there is a book I find myself buying again and again, because I have so many friends who should read it; this year, that book is without question The Diezmo. What a woeful and dusty and beautiful adventure; what a great and simple tale! For Mr. Bass writes with eyewitness precision, clear humility, and best of all, the generosity of the forgiven. The Diezmo extends his already considerable reach, and is the best of his many fine works." --Leif Enger

"Rick Bass's The Diezmo is the best literary adventure story I've read since Legends of the Fall. Full of unusual history, exciting events, timely ideas, and stunning wilderness scenery, The Diezmo is a wonderfully-told novel of the human capacity for survival in the face of the very worst that war can do to us." --Howard Frank Mosher

"[The Diezmo] contains many exquisite passages that will give the reader pause. . .A masterpiece." --Patty Lamberti Playboy

"Bass plays the English language like a stringed instrument...a ripping good tale." --Mike Shea, Texas Monthly

"Terrific...powerful...the lean beauty of Bass' prose...[is] gripping." --Adam Hill Los Angeles Times

"Compellingly effective." --H.W. Brands The Washington Post

"Succinct, evocative, and painterly...a surprisingly absorbing rendition of a terrible episode in American history." --Elizabeth Grossman The Oregonian

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By David R. Evans on August 18, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I found this book to be an excellent historical novelation (or is it a novelation of a historic event)? Anyway, as someone who is familiar with Texas history, I still found much to admire about this novelisation (novelization?) of the Meir escapade, which I learned a lot about, in spite of my (supposed) knowledge of the story. It is made more interesting by the centering of the story on one fictional character, intermixed with real, historic figures. I would recommend the book highly to anyone wanting to learn about this tragic event in Texas history, as well as anyone wanting to read an exciting, bloody story in its own right.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Stuart W. Mirsky on August 15, 2010
Format: Paperback
A workmanlike retelling, in the form of a survivor's memoir, of the filibustering excesses of a group of Texas patriots who set out to defend the borders of their new republic but stumble, instead, into a confrontation with vastly superior Mexican forces on the Mexican side of the Rio Grande; this tale captures the naive eagerness and unabashed savagery of the glory-crazed Texas combatants through the eyes of a diffident and surprisingly passive narrator. Fifteen year old James Alexander and his boon companion James Shepherd respond to the call to glory and the defense of their newly born nation when a contingent of Texas irregulars arrives on a recruiting mission in their small rural community. Excited by the promises of glory they are swiftly swept up in an ill-conceived and badly executed campaign which rapidly descends into looting and pillage of Mexican communities along the border and then, after a riotous slaughter in the town of Laredo, devolves into an excursion on the Mexican side against the Mexican town of Mier.

But the leaders of the unit of irregulars fall to quarreling and indecisiveness as one of their number refuses to cross the river and takes his troops home while the others conceal their orders which proscribe atrocities against the indigenous Mexican communities as they lead their men on a mission of brutal slaughter and theft. The remaining troops with the two rogue leaders pursue a dream of military conquest, only to stumble into a Mexican force that is many times the size of their own. Undaunted and without regard to the reality of this mismatch, and after much bloody fighting, the Texans are borne down by the greater numbers arrayed against them.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Megan Sanchez on September 18, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I was reluctant to continue after hearing some of the horrific deeds commited by the men who (after reading the dustjacket) I thought to be Texas heroes. But just as I was appalled I was mesmerized into reading throughout the night in hopes of learning how their fates played out. And as I write this just a few minutes later I am wondering how the survivors fared, the ones that were less critical to the story at hand but may have played a more powerful and less publicized role. Overall I recommend this to anyone with an interest in Texas...or history... or man in general.
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