As every Texan (and much of the rest of the world) already knows, Texas history is filled with true tales involving the bigger-than-life characters who played such prominent roles in gaining the territory its independence from Mexico. And in the minds of most, none loom larger than the Alamo heroes William Travis, Jim Bowie, and Davy Crockett. They are the stuff of legends. That none of these men is actually from Texas is irrelevant; Texans have claimed them as their own ever since they died in the fight that would eventually lead to Texas independence.
Pair these real life heroes with a good storyteller like Landon Wallace and you have the makings of an unusual, and intriguing, piece of historical fiction. Part history, part alternative history, part romance novel, part thriller, Come and Take It focuses on the only male survivor of the slaughter at the Alamo, a young slave owned by Colonel Travis whom everyone knew simply as Joe. Just suppose, Wallace says, that young Joe was carrying something so valuable when he escaped Santa Anna's army that even today there are people willing to kill in order to get their hands on it.
And in 2013, starting with a direct descendent of Joe's, they do kill.
Joe Travis, a 93-year-old World War II hero who still lives alone despite his fragile health, outsmarts his killers, however, and takes his secret to the grave with him. Now it is up to Joe's grandson, a small-town Alabama football coach, to figure out what his grandfather has been hiding for so long – and why he was murdered.
|Dawn at the Alamo by Henry McArdle|
Nat Travis, with some vital help from his former sister-in-law, who is a respected (and beautiful) history professor, slowly pieces together enough information to tell him that somewhere out there is a lost Alamo treasure that has slipped right through history's cracks. And he knows that the best way to avenge his grandfather's murder is to find that treasure, whatever it is, before the killers can get their hands on it. But where is it? Still buried on the grounds of the Alamo shrine, hidden away in some obscure location...or long ago found and spent by some lucky scavenger who stumbled across it?
Landon Wallace, via flashbacks from the present to the 1836 Battle of the Alamo, tells a plausible "what-if" story in Come and Take It that is both fun to read and a mini-lesson in real Texas history. It delves, too, into the politics of modern day Alamo site management that might surprise some of Wallace's readers. And in the middle of all of this, Wallace manages to tightly merge side plots involving small town football and a somewhat unusual romance into his story. It is the side plots that give Wallace room to develop his characters beyond the cardboard cutouts they could have been and, despite the fact that the bad guys are sometimes stereotypically bad and the good guys stereotypically good, he largely succeeds in doing that.
Come and Take It is a fun read that Alamo/Texas history buffs are likely to enjoy.