March 2012

13 Days To Glory: The Siege Of The Alamo

Lon Tinkle's classic narrative of the legendary siege

Eons ago I watched on TV the two-part miniseries “The Alamo: 13 Days To Glory.”  At the time I thought it was pretty good; much later I realized how dumb it was: Civil War-era uniforms for Texan officers in 1836?   Brian Keith as Davy Crockett?!    Texan volunteer from Tennessee  William Cloud falling for a young Mexican senorita whom he marries the night before the final attack?!   Alec Baldwin as William B.  Travis?!   Baldwin’s Travis standing on top of a well and dying there during the fall of the fort?!   Stock footage a go-go from the classic Alamo flick The Last Command edited in?!    Lorne Greene as an old, drunken, cowardly Sam Houston?!  I could go on and on, people.    If you ask me, Burt Kennedy was somewhat pedestrian as a director, at least on this turkey.

However, I did also discover it had taken some of its title from a non-fiction book it had been –extremely- loosely based on; this non-fiction book.

Review: A Road We Do Not Know

A taste of Frederick Chiaventone's novel of the battle of Little Bighorn

Looking back, I don’t know why I wasted time in my youth with soapy historical novels like Herman Wouk’s The Winds of War and War And Remembrance or, in the case of the Wild West and George Custer, Ernest Haycox’s Bugles In The Afternoon.  Melodramatic love triangles and other angst related to matters of the heart involving fictional characters may work well with a romance novel, but in terms of bringing history to life, they –at least in my opinion- do nothing but gum up the works and make the story boring, not gripping.

Luckily enough, I soon discovered the likes of The Killer Angels ... and this novel.

Review: Moon Of Bitter Cold

Frederick J. Chiaventone's brilliant take on Red Cloud's War and the Fetterman fight

To a degree, this book is the historical fiction to Dee Brown’s The Fetterman Massacre in that they both take similar directions when narrating the story and feature many of the same people (i.e. Red Cloud, Crazy Horse, Colonel Henry Carrington, and, of course, Lieutenant William J. Fetterman, among others); he even entitles his chapters in a similar manner, using Indian descriptions of the moon’s phases (here rendered first in native tongue and then English bracketed by ellipses),

Chiaventone narrates with an eloquent pen, depicting everything from a Brule village in a snowstorm to a minstrel show on the trail as the 18th Infantry marches towards the Bozeman trail to Red Cloud and Colonel Carrington having a close brush at Fort Laramie during the tepid conference there between the “Great White Father” and the Indians determining whether or not they would allow the Bozeman trail to exist brining whites into their prized Powder River hunting country to, at last, the “Battle of the Hundred Slain” as the Indians under Red Cloud called the Fetterman fight, with an epilogue taking place at the dedication of the monument that stands on the sight of the fateful battle to this day, along with many more events and vignettes from this, the only war the Plains Indians ever managed to win.