- Great Colfax County War storyLoretta Toffelson
There were a lot of pieces to the conflict that engulfed New Mexico’s Colfax County in the 1870s–the conflict we know today as the Colfax County War. As far as I know, no one has ever provided a good fictional account of how some of those pieces fit together and just who did what to whom. Until now.
The hero of Thomas D. Clagett’s West of Penance doesn’t get to Colfax County until a little over one-third of the way into the book. But once he does, he’s in the middle of events that actually happened. Events that Clagett lines up nicely and for which he provides explanations that not only make sense, but make for a great story.
Although Father Graintaire and the woman who takes him in are fictional characters, everyone else in this section of the book actually existed. Based on my own Colfax County research, Clagett’s conceptions of them and their actions are right on target. The portraits of Clay Allison and Sheriff Chittenden, and the explanation of why Cruz Vega was in William Lowe’s cornfield the night he was lynched are especially well done. And Clagett’s portrait of Santa Fe Ring attorney Melvin W. Mills gave me new insight into Mills’ character. I wish I’d read West of Penance before I wrote his scenes in The Pain and The Sorrow!
Given how well Clagett handles the Colfax County material in this book, I think it’s safe to assume that the first part of West of Penance is just as authentic. I certainly feel like I know more now about the French Foreign Legion than I did before I read this book.
So, if you’re interested in the French Foreign Legion at the battle of Camerone and the role they played in acquiring Mexico for France, or in New Mexico’s Colfax County War, I recommend that you read West of Penance!
- Yeee gods did this thing tale holdStephen Hedstrom via Barnes and Noble
A mite slow till I got the characters sorted out but when it did it took off running. People behave in realistic ways, No superheroes here. No supervillians either. The whole book rings of top-notch research. Given that this book follows the last days of the Battle of the Alamo I had a fairly good idea of what was going to happen to whom. Even so, I was clenching my teeth and cringing at the flying ordnance and the bayonets. The Mexican army is well handled. They are not faceless enemies but show heart, discipline, skill and tactical knowledge, as well as disgust at carrying out certain orders. Five stars.
- Sure, we all know the ending…David
Sure, we all know the ending...
However, this book is a great read. It tells the Alamo story from the point of view of all sides. The words of those of the author, but they could have easily been said by the characters in the book, all of who are historic figures. (Five out of five stars)
- This is one of those books I will read againJackie Carter
Great read about the final 13 hours at the Alamo. We read not only about the famous people in this historic event, but the people that are not normally found in history books which makes this story come alive. This is one of those books I will read again. (Five out of five stars)
- Author’s audacious approach gives us a fresh take on the AlamoAndrew McBride
Almost as soon as the smoke cleared from the Alamo battlefield another fog shrouded the scene – that of legend. In the nearly two centuries since historians have argued over almost every single aspect of what may have occurred there in early 1836, when fabled heroes – Davy Crockett, Jim Bowie and William Travis – and a handful of Texans gathered to stand against Santa Anna’s mighty Mexican army and a 13-day siege ensued. Numerous novels, TV shows and movies on these extraordinary events have, for the most part, only fueled the confusion and controversy. So I was skeptical that any further re-telling could add anything new. Happily I was wrong. Thomas Clagett’s audacious approach brings a fresh twist to the tale. For a start he doesn’t attempt to tell the story of the Texas War of Independence, or even the whole siege. Instead he concentrates on the last 13 hours – the evening of March 5 and the morning of March 6 1836. We get an intense focus on the ‘lull before the storm’ and then on the storm itself, as the Mexican army launches its final bloody assault on the Alamo. And bravely he chooses to tell the story through the eyes of less-famous participants: Susannah Dickinson, wife of an Alamo defender, three brothers among the garrison and a Mexican officer leading his troops against them. The ‘big three’ – Crockett, Bowie and Travis – become supporting players. In this way, Clagett humanises the story, without in any way trivialising or diminishing it, or belittling the participants (on both sides.) This is still an epic of courage and sacrifice, of heroism without false heroics. Clagett expertly captures the tension of men waiting to face death, and then the high drama of them giving and receiving it in the battle that consumes them. Highly recommended. (Four out of five stars)
- Humanizes the characters … an enjoyable readRichard West
Loses one star because of all the Spanish words which couldn't be figured out and characters switching back-and-forth between English and Spanish. Otherwise, this was an enjoyable book.
Humanizes a number of the characters who had just been names of Alamo defenders. While it is fiction, it helps by putting a "they may have said (or done) this at this particular time" slant on their lives. And it does the same for some of the Mexicans - not all of them were ogres like their leader, Santa Ana who was probably reincarnated as Hitler in a future life. And let's face it, it's kind of difficult to feel anything for soldiers who had as their goal the elimination of the 200+ defenders of the old Spanish mission in San Antonio, but they were just following orders. I didn't find myself thinking "I'd like to go have a beer with this guy" but it did humanize some of them. Some of them, on the other hand, were complete (insert appropriate profanity here) like their leader.
Everyone who knows anything about American or Texas history is familiar with the battle of the Alamo; how for 13 days 200+ (no one will ever know the exact number, it varies from 150 - 250) brave fighters fought off an army estimated at around 4000, and how, on the morning of March 6, 1836, in a battle that lasted barely 45 minutes, all the defenders died with only the women, children and one slave being spared.
So what makes this book different? As mentioned, since it is fiction, it humanizes the people involved and makes them more than just names on a monument or in a history book. And, despite the somewhat graphic battle scenes, comes across as an enjoyable read. As long as you don't take it from a "yep, they said this," or "they did this" point-of-view and accept it as what actually happened and was actually said, it makes for a nice diversion from so many of the other books one has to choose from. And, it has been researched - a great many of the battle scenes are described as history has recorded them, so in that respect, it can't be faulted for being inaccurate - it isn't. Just remember, it's fiction and enjoy it. (Goodreads four out of five stars)
- The author presents a pragmatic, well-researched overview of that awful morning of March 6, 1836Zjody
While we will never know specifically what went on inside the final hours of the Alamo, the author presents a pragmatic, well-researched overview of that awful morning of March 6, 1836. With ample insight from both inside and outside of the walls, we share a sense of the inevitable conclusion from both sides of the conflict. The author carefully avoids estimating the number of fatalities in the battle, but focuses instead on the human dreams and emotions from the participants who were in San Antonio on that fateful day. The book suffers in only one omission. Since there are many examples of described locations within the Alamo itself, an illustration of the area would have been greatly appreciated by this reader.
(4 out of 5 stars)
- An Alamo AllegoryTrue West - November 2018 Edition
Line of Glory by Thomas D. Clagett (Five Star Publishing, $25.95) tells the story of the Alamo through the unique perspective of lesser-known participants and by focusing the action on the last two days of the Alamo siege. On the Texan side we have the three Taylor brothers and Susannah Dickinson, while the Mexican view comes through the eyes of Col. Juan Morales. The telling is a masterful blend of Alamo fact, fiction and myth. Books about the Alamo can only end in one way and Clagett’s final battle is particularly harrowing and well-written. You actually hold out hope for the doomed defenders. A good read!
- Good ReadAlamo-nut
It was a good read, interesting to see the Alamo from lesser-known perspectives. (4 out of 5 stars)
- Excellent, Superb, SpellbindingEnjoying Eldorado
Most Americans 50+ in age are somewhat familiar with the history if the Alamo. Mostly through movies and television epics. This superb author took the known history of this great American epic to a new height. As I read, I found myself deliberately slowing my pace; not wanting to face the inevitable ending -- history cannot be rearranged. I truly appreciated the epilogue, as I and most readers felt a yearning to know some of what the survivors experienced in years after the Alamo. Thank you Tom Clagett for yet another fantastic novel. Look forward to your next. (5 out of 5 stars)
- Realistic Presentation of Both Sides of the Alamo ConflictShirl
Clagett has effectively captured the realistic emotions of fear, anxiety, and frustration of the characters on both sides of the Alamo confrontation, Texan and Mexican. Famous participants, such as Davey Crockett, are present in the novel, but the focus is on how others might have experienced the hours before and during the battle. His fictionalized account is so vivid and authentic, readers should be prepared to anticipate lots of blood and gore. It is refreshing to read a book from perspectives of both antagonistic sides. Perhaps a lesson can be learned for current opposing perspectives in today's world. (5 out of 5 stars)Image already added
- An easy read about an iconic American event.James P. Loyd
Great read that looks at the siege of the Alamo from a completely different angle than most others; from the lesser-known participants. I thoroughly enjoyed it. (5 out of 5 stars)Image already added
- 5.0 out of 5 stars – Better written than most modern thrillersVerified Amazon Purchaser
I don't consider myself a reader of "westerns", but this novel really kept me interested. The action is better written than most modern thrillers.
The historical details about the Alamo kept the story going, instead of slowing it down. I'm going to check out the other books.Image already added
- The depiction of the final assault is rivetingRoundup Magazine
Award-winning author Thomas D. Clagett takes readers to the Alamo in 1836 in this well-researched historical novel told through the eyes of some lesser-known figures in the battle – on both sides. Everyone knows the story (and the ending), but Clagett manages to build tension and makes his characters, especially young defender James Taylor and Mexican Colonel Juan Morales, feel incredibly real. The depiction of the final assault is riveting, earning Clagett a place alongside novelists Paul Wellman, Steve Frazee and Stephen Harrigan for taking readers on memorable fictional journeys inside those storied walls.
— Roundup MagazineImage already added
- Line of Glory is a well written and well-paced read.Booklist
With all the Alamo tales already published over the past nearly two centuries, one wonders if another really serves a purpose. But Clagett (The Pursuit of Murieta, 2013) has done a masterful job of delving into the backstories of the characters involved, Texan and Mexican both. With little true, documented history to lean on and no survivors from the ranks of the fighting men to tell their stories, the interested history buff is left wondering. Clagett addresses that wondering. What does a fighting man say to his wife immediately before he steps out the door to face insurmountable odds? What does the wife say when she knows she will be a widow within minutes? What do three brothers do and say as they face certain death together? How does a man deal with his regrets when there is no time left? How does a man act when facing his execution? And how did the many individuals come to be there at all? Line of Glory is a well written and well-paced read.Image already added
- A historical novel for the western genre — a unique idea, and it works!Charles Johnson via Goodreads
Behold the cliched western novel - a gunfighter or two, a saloon singer, a haunted gold mine and a tribe of hostile Apaches. Not here – not here at all in Thomas Clagett’s WEST OF PENANCE. Through some fine historical research and hard work, here is a superb story spun out of a famous French Legion Battle, a Catholic clergyman and a land grab plot in the wild west days of New Mexico. Though the setting may be the American Wild West, Clagett weaves a tale that extinguishes all of those “Western Novel” clichés, delivering an interesting and exciting story as the reader follows Clement Grantaire from his humble military beginnings (on and off the battlefield), his growth as a spiritual leader, and his attempt to make good on a promise to a man he owes so much. This is a swell combination of a historical novel and the western themes of the Great American Frontier.
We first meet Grantaire in a poker game in Paris, France. No sign of a western tale here. On then to a flight from the law and into the secret life of the French Foreign Legion – still no cactus or horse in sight. Jump a few years, and the reader finds Clagett’s main character, having experienced a change of morality, serving the poor in the arid west of the territories of the new American frontier. Now, we get a savory taste of a western. Clagett weaves more of his tale, and sure as the sun sets beyond the hills, here’s our western, complete in its setting and its characters.
It is the late nineteenth century at the New Mexico/Texas area. Towns are growing as the settlers are arriving to farm, to be merchants, to create a new state. However, rich men hungry for more and more land, use every legal angle and corruption to gain acreage, strong-arming many in search of wealth. It is in this world that we find Clement Grantaire and a majority of his tale. Will he get help from the Sheriff? Who can he trust? Turns out, some are more trustworthy than others, and some are so corrupt that they can’t help but get in Grantaire’s way.
The worst of this bunch were those who chose to steal as much land as they could – be it through intimidation or even raw torture. The names and personalities are for the reader to discover – and those scalawags are as nasty as the rattlesnakes in the rocks.
Clement Grantaire’s allies a few, but effective. Some of the henchmen of the land grants bosses have a change of heart, for example, but it the strongly able lady rancher Rachel Scott who provides the encouragement Grantaire needs.
Thomas Clagett gives us deep characters, both the good and the evil. He gives us realistic scenes as the characters interact. He gives us colorful descriptions, concise dialogue, and solid emotions as we learn to love and detest each character and situation.
Thomas Clagett is a well-trained writer who has also done work in the film and television. WEST OF PENANCE is his second novel. Let’s hope Mr. Clagett continues to blend his practice of historical research with the world of the western genre.Image already added
- Clagett presents people on both sides of the battle who were, perhaps, more important to the outcomeRod Miller, Spur Award-winning author
“While most Alamo authors focus on the well-known participants, Clagett presents people on both sides of the battle who were, perhaps, more important to the outcome: ordinary soldiers, unheralded officers, women, and children. We learn of their loves, hatreds, hopes, and the glory (and dishonor) they earn as the battle begins and ends.”
- His fast-paced narrative is so rousing and memorable that the reader will never forget the Alamo!Paul Andrew Hutton, author of The Apache Wars
“The story of the Alamo has long been lost in the mist of legend, but Thomas Clagett brings it to life in his gripping novel. Making good use of historical sources he presents how history may well have been and puts flesh and blood on the men and women, both Texan and Mexican, who fought in that storied battle. His fast-paced narrative is so rousing and memorable that the reader will never forget the Alamo!”
- A well-written western novel of revenge gone wrongHistorialnovelsociety.org
With his first novel, Clagett has written a fun read with a unique twist to the average Western by providing a tale from the viewpoint of both the protagonist and those who are in pursuit. The characters are well drawn out, the plot of the story is fast-paced, and the book is a quick read. Highly recommended.
- Well toldBooklist
Readers will side with Murieta in this well told, disquieting story.
- DefinitiveClassic Images
The definitive work on the subject.
- Fine swashbuckling novelSusan K. Salzer
In this fine swashbuckling novel, Clagett gives us the memorable Clement Grantaire, card sharp, man of God, protector of women and more. At times funny, suspenseful and heartbreaking, West of Penance is a Western novel the way The Count of Monte Cristo is a book about a prison break.Susan K. Salzer, author of Up From Thunder
- A fine readThomas CobbThis fast paced novel gives us a flesh and blood Murieta pursued by flesh and blood lawmen and citizens, whose motives are complex, whose actions are grim. Clagett lays bare the psychology of both the desperado and his pursuers. A fine read.
- Exhaustive and perceptive…Exhaustive and perceptive... more than that, it’s a fun read.Daily Variety
- I have to say its the best book out there about him and his filmsAmazon Reviewer
This is one of the only two books about William Friedkin and as a big fan of his, i have to say its the best book out there about him and his films. This book is an analysis of his films and who he is as a person, someone whose not only passionate, obsessed, but also crazy. It has everything you need to know about his film career from the documentary period to the 2000 rerelease of The Exorcist. I wish there's a new 3rd updated version that would include The Hunted, Bug, CSI, and his upcoming project Killer Joe, but other than that its a fascinating book that's not only engaging, compelling, entertaining, hilarious but also inspiring. William Friedkin is indeed one of the greatest American directors ever. The master of realist action, hand held cameras, thrillers, ambiguous endings, and car chases.
- An obsessed man in HollywoodAmazon Reviewer
This is one of two books on William Friedkin, the other being the out-of-print Hurricane Billy, which is a straight biography.
Clagett's work is more academic, but it's one of the better examinations of a director and his work, heavily relying on the thoughts and ideas of the filmmakers (collaborators included). The analysis is done through the filter of the thoughts, ideas, intentions, and inventions of the filmmakers. It chronicles Friedkin's influences and work from his television days right on through to Rules of Engagement (this volume is a revised edition, as the original 1990 one only went to The Guardian). The chapters are smartly broken up into two parts: one is a detailed reading of the film, noting the details and imagery, the other is about the making of the film, with comments from Friedkin himself, the best part of the book, and with the many collaborators and players.
The result is a body of work that is consistent with Friedkin's personality and interests, if not consistent in overall quality. This serves as an excellent depiction of a strong personality, an obsessed man, in many ways, and the conflict of directing 'Hollywood' films but with an outlaw element. Friedkin's films do come off as consistent: there is a gritty, cynical attitude, and the endings are not typical--there's hardly a film in Friedkin's catalog that ends happily ever after.
Overall, an excellent book. Friedkin comes across loud and clear in this book: obnoxious, intelligent, honest, funny, and a total character who made some excellent films.
- I highly recommend this book.Amazon Reviewer
In the research I have done reference Murieta, few facts are actually known about this man. The author has taken this legendary figure and developed an exciting tale of this outlaw and his pursuit in old California. Not only is Murieta brought to life as an individual, but the other characters, including his closet companion, are equally brought to life. It is a great story with a surprise ending. I hope they make it into a movie someday. I highly recommend this book.
- Fast paced, well researched. Great read for everyone!Amazon Reviewer
Awesome book about the old west in California. It's a great read. I could not put the book down. Such detail in how it really was at that time. You could actually picture the characters so clearly. I learned so much about Joaquin Murrieta and more of California's history. The California Rangers were in hot pursuit of him however Joaquin led them on an incredible chase. The author, Thomas Clagett, went into such detail I felt that I was there. The epilogue was well researched so you know what happened to the characters at the end.
- I highly recommend it.Amazon Reviewer
Murieta was an outlaw in the wild west. This is the story of how and why he became an angry, bitter, vengeful killer. It’s what this book is about yet it’s not all what the book addresses. The author, Thomas Clagett, does an excellent job bringing the reader into how Murieta must have felt when any man’s worse possible nightmare comes true (don’t want to spoil it for you by telling you the story line). What I will say is what happens leaves Murieta an angry, bitter, vengeful killer who becomes a wanted man. He is unable to overcome these demons of his past even though he seeks forgiveness for the things he has done. But in his heart he is still unrepentant of murder. And you get the feeling that, given the chance, he would never repent. He feels that what happened to him justifies his actions.
But this novel is not just about an outlaw. It’s deeper than that. It delves into prejudices the Americans had towards the Mexicans and the prejudices the Mexicans had towards the Americans during this time in our history. Since I live in the Southwest, I found it enlightening to know some of the history behind these prejudices that still linger even to this day.
It also addresses corruption by what could be called the Southwest’s version of the “good ol’ boys” that pretty much ruled the roost back then and made everyone miserable while making themselves filthy rich. Mafioso - cowboy style.
I found “The Pursuit of Murieta” to be a very intriguing book that is both well written and enlightening. I highly recommend it.
- Highly recommended. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.Amazon Reviewer
WEST OF PENANCE is well paced, engaging and has an emotional kick. The story is filled with temptations and violence and believable characters. The hero is Clement Grantaire, who becomes driven to redeem his past. The book has a wonderful sense of place, whether in 1863 with the French Foreign Legion in Mexico or in 1875 on the rolling plains of New Mexico. It's telling of history feels well researched. The Battle of Camerone is brilliantly described. The Santa Fe Ring is shown to be what it was, a corrupter of the economy and politics of the Territory of New Mexico. Even so, the Santa Fe Ring could be as fearful as they were greedy. The forts, towns, churches and livelihoods of New Mexico are woven into a clearly told story that moves swiftly and is never boring.
Highly recommended. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.
- What an entertaining read!Historical Novel Society
What an entertaining read! Prepared to be immersed in the story’s twists and turns while Father Clement tries to get his money back while involving himself in the land war and helping the woman who saved his life. The novel is well researched in New Mexican history during the late 19th century. Also, be prepared for a surprise ending!
- The Real Wild WestAmazon Reviewer
What do a card shark in the gambling salons of Paris, a soldier in a desperate battle in Mexico and a parish priest serving his flock on the American frontier have in common? Quite a bit, as it turns out, because in Tom Clagett's West of Penance they are the same man. Clagett weaves a tale of non-stop adventure, historical relevance and ultimate redemption that entertains, inspires and commanded my attention from page 1.
- IGNORE MY 5 STAR RATING – IT’S A 10 STAR BOOK!Amazon Reviewer
Ever read a book that grabs you right away and you can’t put it down? West of Penance is just that kinda book. It grabs you on page one and never slows down. It was one of those books that I could not set down until I finished it and then when I did I was sorry it was over. Very well done.
If you like action packed and full of surprises then you will love this book. But that’s not all it is. It’s a well written historical fiction piece of literature. The main character is both likable and easy to identify with. The author places you not only right at the scene but you feel like you’re literally in the main characters skin. You become the main character. It’s that well written. I could say a lot more but I don’t want to spoil your fun reading it for yourself. I hate it when reviews give away the story line.
I love books, really good books, and I’ve read a lot of them in my day. But “West of Penance” I would put at the very top of the list. Very well written. Definitely a must read. I’ve got it sitting on my “best of my books” shelf. These are my books I consider worthy of a second or third reading. It’s really that good.
- This is a MUST read.Amazon Reviewer
I found West of Penance to be a very well written book. It certainly holds your attention from beginning to end. As a new resident of New Mexico, I found myself travelling along with the main character as the story develops. I must admit, there were several surprise moments, as I did not anticipate the correct outcome. This just added to the suspense. For me, the ending was sad, as I found myself hoping the main character would weather the storm and return to his chosen vocation. This is a MUST read.
Tom has always had a love of the West, of film and of writing. Born and raised in San Diego, California, he attended the University of Southern California. He spent more than twenty years in Hollywood working as an assistant film editor, as well as freelance writing. Devoting himself to writing historical fiction full-time, he and his wife Marilyn moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico, where they adopted their cat, Cody, whom they are home schooling with great success.
From The Author’s Desk
Rogers is remarkable in the lead role. His weathered face shows more about him than any explanation we are given later, but even that is precious little.
William Goldman, one of the most gifted writers and a personal inspiration of mine, passed away today from colon cancer and pneumonia. He was 86.
My Author Talk on “The Alamo as Historical Fiction” at the New Mexico State Library was a terrific success.