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The Gates of the Alamo Kindle Edition

4.3 out of 5 stars 138 customer reviews

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Length: 604 pages Word Wise: Enabled

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

A novel about the Alamo promises as much suspense as a movie about the Titanic: we already know how it's going to end. The bloody siege of the Alamo was, of course, not only the defining crisis in the Texan struggle for independence from Mexico but also an event that secured martyrdom for the 200 or so men who died there and transformed a dusty Franciscan mission into a national shrine, an American Troy. As with all mythologized chronicles, however, the Battle of the Alamo ultimately resolves into mundane fact, a catalog of human error, ego, and heroism. And it is these details that Stephen Harrigan regards in his broad and powerful third novel, The Gates of the Alamo.

Passing lightly over the oft-profiled Alamo stalwarts--Jim Bowie, Davy Crockett, and the young commander William Travis--Harrigan focuses on fictional secondaries, primarily botanist Edmund McGowan and mother and son Mary and Terrell Mott. Rigidly devoted to his work, Edmund straddles the fence in the dispute over Texas, even as war murmurs grow. But when he meets widowed Mary, who maintains her small inn with a steady, gentle resourcefulness, his good nature pulls him steadily into the inevitable conflict. Mary herself is forced to quarter Mexican soldiers; and then, as she watches incredulously, her young son seeks to test himself in the erupting skirmishes. Eventually the trio find themselves inside the Alamo during the nearly two-week battle, their various conciliations frustrated by the surrounding mayhem.

Harrigan's Texas is an uncertain, dangerous jostling of peoples, a place where disaster threatens too frequently, where practical knowledge is paramount and political ambivalence untenable, and where a primal beauty appears often as if by magic: "Hundreds and hundreds of lush gray cranes ... spanned the sky almost from horizon to horizon, and the whole procession moved with the quiet, ordained manner in which events unfold in a dream." However, the emblematic significance of the Alamo itself remains inscrutable. As Mary tends to the dying, watching hope turn to hopelessness, she can only respond to Travis's rallying orations with disillusionment: "She had heard enough of these empty patriotic effusions by now to feel that the Alamo was nothing but a sinking island of rhetoric." The Gates of the Alamo nonetheless sweeps us into the many and variegated smaller stories that compose the larger one. It's a book to remember. --Ben Guterson

From Publishers Weekly

Settling his fictional cast firmly at the heart of 19th-century Texas, novelist Harrigan (Jacob's Well) retells the story of the Alamo with consummate skill, weaving a wealth of historical detail into a tight, moving human drama. Mary Mott, honest widow and frontier innkeeper near the Gulf Coast; her 16-year-old son, Terrell; an itinerant, fiercely independent botanist named Edmund McGowan; and a small collection of soldiers in Santa Anna's army are among those whose lives are disrupted as factions within the rebellious Mexican state unite in the common cause of independence. In a serpentine plot that never runs dull, Harrigan traces the growing war fever, beginning in 1835, neatly avoiding political debate by presenting the various arguments plainly from each point of view. When Terrell runs away after an emotionally disturbed girl, who is pregnant with his child, commits suicide, his mother and McGowan follow after him. All three wind up in the Alamo and are caught in the futile and ill-conceived 1836 battle on the outskirts of San Antonio de B?xar. Faced with the formidable chore of handling such monumental legends as William Travis, James Bowie, David Crockett, Sam Houston and, of course, Santa Anna, Harrigan takes a judicious middle path, treating them respectfully but not smoothing over their flaws. Strict traditionalists may bridle at the deft ease with which Harrigan manipulates the bloody siege to allow a sentimental conclusion to his novel, and exacting historians may note his glossing of Mexican tactics in the final storming of the old mission, though the gore and guts of 19th-century combat are faithfully rendered. Yet Harrigan has crafted a compulsively readable historical drama on a grand scale, peopled with highly believable frontier personalities--Mexican as well as American--and suffused with period authenticity. 100,000 first printing; 11-city author tour. (Mar.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • File Size: 920 KB
  • Print Length: 604 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0679447172
  • Publisher: Knopf; 1st edition (May 1, 2001)
  • Publication Date: May 1, 2001
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0030CMK3K
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #76,076 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author




Stephen Harrigan was born in Oklahoma City in 1948 and has lived in Texas since the age of five, growing up in Abilene and Corpus Christi. He is a longtime writer for Texas Monthly, and his articles and essays have appeared in a wide range of other publications as well, including The Atlantic, Outside, The New York Times Magazine, Conde Nast Traveler, Audubon, Travel Holiday, Life, American History, National Geographic and Slate. He was a finalist for the 2015 National Magazine Awards for his commentary on film and television for Texas Monthly.

Harrigan is the author of ten books of fiction and non-fiction, including The Gates of the Alamo, which became a New York Times bestseller and Notable Book, and received a number of awards, including the TCU Texas Book Award, the Western Heritage Award from the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, and the Spur Award for Best Novel of the West. Remember Ben Clayton, was published by Knopf in 2011 and praised by Booklist as a "stunning work of art" and by The Wall Street Journal as a "a poignantly human monument to our history." Remember Ben Clayton also won a Spur Award, as well as the Jesse H. Jones Award from the Texas Institute of Letters and the James Fenimore Cooper Prize, given by the Society of American Historians for the best work of historical fiction. In the Spring of 2013, the University of Texas Press published a career-spanning volume of his essays, The Eye of the Mammoth, which reviewers called "masterful" (from a starred review in Publishers Weekly), "enchanting and irresistible" (the Dallas Morning News) and written with "acuity and matchless prose."(Booklist). His latest novel is A Friend of Mr. Lincoln, a work of fiction centering on Abraham Lincoln's early career as a lawyer and state legislator in Springfield, Illinois. A starred review in Publishers Weekly hailed the book as "superb" and, in the judgment of Pulitzer Prize winning historian Joseph J. Ellis, it is "historical fiction at its very best."

Among the many movies Harrigan has written for television are HBO's award-winning "The Last of His Tribe," starring Jon Voight and Graham Greene, and "King of Texas," a western retelling of Shakespeare's King Lear for TNT, which starred Patrick Stewart, Marcia Gay Harden, and Roy Scheider. His most recent television production was "The Colt," an adaptation of a short story by the Nobel-prize winning author Mikhail Sholokhov, which aired on The Hallmark Channel. For his screenplay of "The Colt," Harrigan was nominated for a Writers Guild Award and the Humanitas Prize. Young Caesar, a feature adaptation of Conn Iggulden's "Emperor" novels, which he co-wrote with William Broyles, Jr., is currently in development with Exclusive Media.

A 1971 graduate of the University of Texas, Harrigan lives in Austin, where he is a faculty fellow at UT's James A. Michener Center for Writers and a writer-at-large for Texas Monthly. He is also a founding member of CAST (Capital Area Statues, Inc.) an organization in Austin that commissions monumental works of art as gifts to the city. He is the recipient of the Texas Book Festival's Texas Writers Award, the Lon Tinkle Award for lifetime achievement from the Texas Institute of Letters, and has been inducted into the Texas Literary Hall of Fame. Stephen Harrigan and his wife Sue Ellen have three daughters and four grandchildren.




Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
After publishing two wonderful, critically acclaimed novels in the `80s ("Aransas" and "Jacob's Well"), Stephen Harrigan seemed to drop off of the literary map. But his time was well spent, writing books of essays ("Commanche Night") and teleplays ("The Last of His Tribe," "Cleopatra") while researching his latest and third novel, "At the Gates of the Alamo," a work of historical fiction which reads like thriller and will have thousands of Americans glued to their seats as they reevaluate that legendary event in our history. Harrigan frames his story with a 1911 parade in San Antonio, as former Mayor Terrell Mott, the last surviving "hero" of the Alamo, takes a place of honor in the procession. Terrell's recollections of that time lead into the main story, featuring Terrell his mother Mary, and a botanist named Ed McGowan as protagonists. Beginning in the months before the citizens of Texas begin their fight for independence, Harrigan's narrative sets the stage for the coming siege with descriptions of violence that were almost commonplace during the time. An attack by Karankawa Indians is rendered in prose that mixes matter-of-fact detail with nearly poetic description: "He raised his war club, and in a strange suspension of time she studied him as if he were a subject sitting for a portrait: the shell gorget at his beautiful neck, the blue circles tattooed over his cheekbones, the rattlesnake rattles whirring at the end of his braid.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
From the first page this large and satisfying book, you know you are in the hands of a master. Stephen Harrigan not only knows his Texas history like nobody's business, but he knows how to create characters we immediately care about, and finds the trick of building suspense around an historical event with a well-known outcome.
Using a mix of Northamerican, Mexican and Tejano characters both real and imagined, we see what life in Mexican Texas was like. One major character, Edmund McGowan, is a naturalist in the employ of the Mexican government who sees no reason to break away. The mysterious end to that income sends him to Mexico City to find out what's happened. The possible breakaway of Texas is the talk of the town, and although Edmund insists that many of Mexico's Texas citizens are perfectly happy (settlers had to become Mexican citizens and Catholics in order to own land) a Mexico City barber sets him straight: "Ah, but these days one can only be a Mexican in one's soul. It is very difficult to be a citizen when one's government is so inconstant." Also on this trip he meets Stephen Austin, fresh from prison following his latest attempt to have a rational dialogue with Mexican president Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, and Juan Almonte, an intelligent and powerful Mexican nobleman, all of whom will play major parts later in the book. McGowan's relationship with widow Mary Mott, who runs an inn on the Texas coast, adds a deep personal note to their troubled times, as does the tie between the Mexican sergeant Blas and a mysteries Maya girl.
The roster of character is large, but each one is sharply drawn and memorable. The siege of the Alamo is exciting and unromantic.
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Format: Hardcover
The Gates of the Alamo is a work of fiction set against the turbulent Texas Revolution and the Alamo in particular. While I am not normally a fan of ficticious works dealing with Texas history this book is the exception. Mr. Harrigan has done his research and taken us into the thirteen day siege in ways few have imagained. This is not Walt Disneys version. The characters are well thought out and human, their decisions are not always the right ones and life does not always have a happy ending. Seen through the eyes of both men and women, Anglo and Hispanic, soldiers and civilians Harrigan takes us through the horrors of war and lets us see that while the Alamo was heroic it wasn't antisceptic and battles really do bring out the worst in its participants. The author has taken the time to understand the different mind sets and attitudes concerning the Texas independence movement and has interwoven them into an interesting story that can be depended on to keep a readers interest and actually inform on many points. Mr. Harrigan has incorporated into his book recently discovered information about the battle that until now only serious researchers and Alamo historians have been aware of adding a deeper understanding of the siege to the casual reader. All in all a very good read that is enjoyable, disturbing, informative and highly recommended
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Format: Hardcover
This is the BEST novel about Texas history. The majority of characters are based on actual people of the time, David Crockett, William Travis, Santa Anna, Gail Borden and more. Harrigan brings them to life, gives them breath, gives them hopes and dreams, and makes them human.
I'm originally from Texas and have visited the real Alamo in San Antonio many times. Most people, during their first visit, are amazed to find that the Alamo stands in the middle of the city. At the time of the battle it was across the river from the town. One cannot get a good sense of just how big the Alamo compound was, in 1836, by visiting the actual place. The plaza, where most of the fighting took place, is now covered by a street, shops and the U.S. Post Office (where Travis was killed). But, when you read GATES OF THE ALAMO you believe you are there; you can visualize the place, the smells, the cold, the pain, and the hunger. You find yourself totally immersed in the characters of the book with their desperate attempts to survive a very brutal and bloody battle.
The battle, as written by Harrigan, comes to life. Even though this book is a novel, what Harrigan has written about the battle is based on the most recent research. His interpretation of the battle is mesmerizing and moving.
The story is told from the perspectives of Mexican officers and soldiers and the Texans. Harrigan is fair in his portrayal of these characters and, because of that, one has a deeper understanding of what motivated these people to fight and die before dawn on March 6, 1836.
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