Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: Alamo All-Stars
As in the other books, the spy Nathan Hale, about to be executed, is telling tales of history to his captors, the rough hangman and the stuffy redcoat. New here is a guest star, Vicente Guerrero, a President of Mexico who fought against Spain for independence, and the three-man firing squad that are about to execute him. That makes for an overstuffed platform for the gallows, a setup I found a metaphor for the rest of the book.
It’s great for Hale to have included a Mexican viewpoint in addition to the American, but trying to tell the history of Texas, starting with early permission to settle families in the newly liberated country of Mexico territory all the way to statehood, in one 128-page book is a very ambitious task. I wound up getting a bit lost at times with all the characters and events. Still, there’s plenty here to enjoy, even if understanding the big picture may take multiple reads, with all the battles and standoffs and lost causes.
Stephen Austin is trying to protect his group of settlers during a particularly touchy political time, while William Travis is riling up people against soldiers. We also find out about President Santa Anna, the cholera epidemic, and the crazy violence of Jim Bowie. Eventually, a group of fighters, including David Crockett, winds up holed up in the Alamo against an overwhelming force of soldiers, and the book becomes about the ever-worsening conditions and gradually declining hope that happens during a siege.
Hale’s graphic touches continue to impress, as when early revolutionary James Long is shot dead. He’s shown lying in a pool of blood that spills out to form the shape of the eventual state of Texas. Hale’s persistent humor is still present, as well, as when the hangman and the firing squad get excited about hearing about pirates and want to have a slumber party. There’s also an illuminating page on the problems of understanding history when some stories that become legends may not be true.
If readers are left a little confused, then that’s an accurate portrait of how much chaos was part of the battle of the Alamo and the history of the founding of Texas.