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The Diezmo


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About the Author

RICK BASS's fiction has received O. Henry Awards, numerous Pushcart Prizes, awards from the Texas Institute of Letters, fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation, and his memoir, Why I Came West, was a finalist for a National Book Critics Circle Award.


When the Republic of Texas was new, Sam Houston joined a border patrol eventually caught by Mexicans, who exacted the dreaded diezmo-one in ten men must die. A reimagining by the prolific Bass in what is, astonishingly, only his second novel. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

In 1842, a militia arrives in LaGrange, a town in the newly formed Republic of Texas. Its purpose is to cross into Mexico and hunt down a band of Mexican nationals who recently attacked San Antonio. Sixteen-year-old James Alexander, overcome by a mix of patriotism, vengeance and a thirst for glory, joins the ranks. What follows is a compact, cleanly written adventure and a statement against rushing headlong into the destruction of war. Like Henry Fleming, the young Union soldier in The Red Badge of Courage, Alexander is an unwilling participant in fighting more ferocious than he had imagined, but most of all he is a witness. Captured by the Mexican army, the militia manage to escape, but the harsh landscape is a pitiless foe, and the men end up back in captivity, at the dreaded Castle of Perve. Bass (Where the Sea Used to Be, etc.) writes about the natural world in vivid, effortless prose; moments of beauty are almost as frequent as instances of violence, degradation and death. The presentation of 19th-century Texas and Mexico is trustworthy, and Alexander's narrative voice never slips. Throughout, meanwhile, there is an insistent harmonic tone that reminds the reader of the current war in Iraq. As the author writes in his acknowledgments, "Decapitations, inhumane treatment of prisoners, questionable documents... all that exists now existed then." Agent, Bob Dattila. Author tour. (May 4) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

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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