Thursday, August 13, 2015

Elmer Kelton's "Sons of Texas" Series

If you've read my blog for long, you know I am an avid fan of Elmer Kelton and his novels. (See "Good Reads: Elmer Kelton's Texas Rangers Series" from February 2012, for example.) I've mentioned before what I believe to be Kelton's greatest strength as a writer, which is characterization. I've just completed reading his "Sons of Texas" series, and was impressed by his historical accuracy.

If you love Texas history, pick up a Kelton novel; it's a great way to learn the history of this state. Personally, I've always loved the Texas colonial period, which lasted from 1821 to 1836 when Texas gained its independence from Mexico. While a history book can teach you the facts of that period, Kelton's "Son of Texas" series can whisk you away into the everyday life of that tumultuous time.

The "Sons of Texas" series consists of 3 books that revolve around the Lewis brothers.

The first book, Sons of Texas, follows Michael Lewis, second oldest son of Mordecai and Patience Lewis of Tennessee. He first comes to Texas with his father when the elder Lewis leads a group of men to this unknown part of the world on a horse hunting expedition in 1816. Later, Michael and his younger brother Andrew return to Texas in 1821 to settle in Stephen F. Austin's colony along the Colorado River.

The second book, The Raiders, picks up 3 years later, in 1824 after Mexico achieved independence from Spain. This second book primarily follows Andrew's activities, though Michael and his young family also are spotlighted. The Raiders ends shortly after the Fredonian Rebellion of 1826-27.

The final book, The Rebels, follows the growing Lewis clan during the turbulent years of 1830 through independence in 1836. This book mainly follows James Lewis, younger brother of Michael and Andrew, when he, his sister Annie, and their cousin Frank and his family come to Texas to settle near Michael and Andrew and their families.

Each book deals accurately and realistically with historical events of the time. Among these are the Fredonian Rebellion mentioned above, the restrictions on American immigration into Mexican Texas, the battles of Velasquez and Anuhuac in 1832, and the major battles of the Texas war for independence. These incidents are vividly brought to life and are humanized for modern audiences. Difficulty of travel in this time when roads were primitive or non-existent is realistically depicted. Especially noteworthy is travel during the Runaway Scrape as settlers fled Santa Anna and his approaching army in 1836. Perhaps most importantly, the reasons for the war are developed, with views from both sides clearly shown.

If you want to learn about this period of Texas history, turn to an Elmer Kelton novel. You won't be able to put it down.

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