MAX L. KNIGHT
Genre: Historical Fiction / Western
Publisher: Page Publishing, Inc.
Date of Publication: September 2, 2017
Number of Pages: 226
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Westward expansion following the civil war ushered in an era of increased conflict between the Southern Plains Indians and white settlers. Peace treaties offered temporary suspension of hostilities, but more often than not resulted in broken promises as the two cultures clashed over land. The construction of frontier forts and towns, the decimation of the buffalo herds, the movement of cattle through Indian lands to burgeoning western markets, – all of these forces threatened a way of life that had existed for centuries.
The Comanche, the Southern Cheyenne, the Kiowa, the Apache all fought to protect their customs and homelands. The clashes were characterized by savagery on both sides – Indian and white. However, finite numbers and options would ensure the tribes’ defeat; they faced certain death or forced relocation and their days were numbered.
Though the Indian wars are the focus of Palo Duro, the novel also captures the spirit of the “Old West” with its depiction of the great cattle drives from Texas into Kansas, New Mexico, Colorado and Montana, the cattle barons and the trail blazers, the outlaws and gunslingers, the lawmen and Texas Rangers, and the settlers and entrepreneurs who built this country. It chronicles an era characterized by heroism, brutality, and bold ventures while paying tribute to a genre that is fading from public consciousness – the western. It is the story of the Southwest United States towards the end of the nineteenth century and the rugged individualism that forged a nation.
5 STAR PRAISE FOR PALO DURO:
This book captured Central Texas in the post-Civil War era better than any other book I’ve read. It was well researched, well written, and easy to read. I enjoyed this book more than Empire of the Summer Moon, the standard setter. I recommend this to readers of any level, even if you dislike history, as this book is that good.
– Jeffrey R. Murray, Amazon review
Max Knight brought to life the saga of how Texas tamed their frontier. He presents a colorful experience with characters effectively placed throughout his story. If you have any interest in Texas history this book is a must read. – AmazonJacki, Amazon review
Palo Duro is an exceptional novel, well researched; a must read.
– Chuck B., Amazon review
Reading this book is a great way to deepen and appreciate one’s Texas roots – or if you are not a Texan to understand and enjoy what makes Texas, well, Texas! I found this novel to be especially entertaining as well as informative. Made me want to go back and read Lonesome Dove again! – Michael P., Amazon review
In the spirit of the old Western genre of Zane Grey and L’amour, Max Knight pays homage to our national heritage with this fictional but historically accurate labor of love that warms the heart with his vivid imagery and authentic tone of America’s illustrious and sometimes brutal past. – Chester Sosinski, Amazon review
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Right off the bat, I noticed that this historical fiction novel reads an awful lot like a history book. Not one of those dry, fact-listing history books, but one that was written by an academic author with a bit of an imagination. When Knight is in this mode of writing, his descriptions go beyond the surface skimming details of most historical fiction books. The colorful descriptions range from the beauty and simplicity of Native American family life to the horrible, clinical depictions of warfare.
I preferred Knight’s sections of dialogue – although I wonder if some of those people were really that eloquent – that truly read like a novel. Those sections are punctuated nicely throughout the novel and kept me moving forward. They also breathed life into people and moments of history that I have never heard about. As I suffered through some of the more horrible, violent parts, the more I realized how watered down or just plain wrong my history classes were from elementary school and even on through college. The victors get to write the history books, right? So I appreciate that Knight treats both sides equally – he doesn’t glorify or justify any of it.
Seventh grade was the last time I remember learning about the Native Americans in Texas. I recall years later hearing that most of what we learned back then was incorrect. I am embarrassed to admit that I never took the time to find out the truth. I hope that Knight has done his research better than those textbook writers.
One thing that I know for sure, Knight has captured the beauty and brutality of the time period. While the book is classified as a novel, I would describe it as a history lesson punctuated by historical fiction. There are a few long stretches of dialogue throughout and it made me wonder if Knight’s choice to write them were due to having more or less documentation on that particular scenario. At the risk of appearing even more history tome-like, I think I would have appreciated footnotes. What I especially liked in this book was the Afterword section because it tied up all the loose ends of what happened to people.
The parts that I savored were sort of day-in-a-life type snapshots: village life among the natives, cattle drives, and gearing up to be a ranger. I glossed over the carnage when I could but lingered over the few times humanity shined through.
What will really stay with me are the following questions: “What accommodation would have satisfied the white’s hunger for more land?” and “What accommodation would have allowed the Apache or any of the Plains Indians to hold onto theirs?” Forever into the future, these questions will be recast with different people or nations inserted. And unfortunately, the answer more often that not might be, “Sometimes it is better to die than to be subjugated.” [Quotes from page 206]
I have a few minor criticisms: Sectioning the novel into books and chapters was a little odd. And then there was the even odder decision to put all of the book and chapter titles in quotation marks. If it were up to me, I would have divided the novel differently so that some sections didn’t seem so sparse while others bloated.
Overall, a great read wrapped in a beautiful cover. It’s not very often that I feel like I’ve learned so much from a historical novel.
Max L. Knight was born in Panama in 1949, and was raised both in the Canal Zone and in San Antonio, Texas where he now resides with his wife, Janet “Gray.” A proud member of the Corps of Cadets and graduate of Texas A&M University (Class of ’73), he received a bachelor’s degree in English and a Regular Army commission and served the next twenty-four years as an Air Defense and Foreign Area Officer before retiring in 1997 with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. After leaving the Army, Max spent the next five years working for RCI Technologies of San Antonio, becoming its Director of Internal Operations. Separating from the company in 2002, he volunteered to be the first docent at the Alamo working within its Education Department before once again serving his country as a Counterintelligence Specialist in Europe, Central America, Asia and the Middle East through 2013. Max speaks several languages including Greek and Spanish. He also holds a Master of Science degree in government from Campbell University. He has written and published two books to date: Silver Taps, a personal memoir of his relationship with his father and a tribute to his alma mater, and Palo Duro, a novel focusing on the Indian wars in the southwestern United States at the end of the nineteenth century.
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One Winner: Signed copy of Palo Duro + $20 Amazon Gift Card
Two Winners: Signed Copies of Palo Duro
JANUARY 10-19, 2018
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