Masterful, realistic retelling of the Jim Bowie legend by Texans Eickhoff and Lewis. In his present effort with Lewis, Eickhoff (who retold the Cuchulainn legend in last year's The Raid) rebuilds the Bowie story in a brilliantly conceived series of interviews that captures the tone of frontier speech with what seems dead-on accuracy. Of Scottish ancestors who rode with Rob Roy, Big Jim Bowie (1790—1836) lent himself to dime-novel fabulization as an archetypal frontier hero only somewhat less fabulous than the Northwest's Paul Bunyan. Bowie's adventures include riding alligators in the swamps, hunting wild cattle with a knife, duels, Indian fights, lost treasure, and the designing of the Bowie knife (steel like a mirror, bronze the color of lightning). Before his death at the Alamo, he fulfilled one of his late wife's last requests, that he free his slaves. Thus the opening interview is with 98-year-old Black Sam, who tells of his 20 years with Bowie. This is done in black English as rich as Nigger Jim's and even more phonetically precise. The voice of Bowie's mother, Elve Ap-Catesby Jones Bowie, is captured with equal resourcefulness as she says of her son's death, —I—ll wager no wounds were found in his back.— Other interviewees are his brother, John Jones Bowie, the Shakespearean actor Edwin Forrest, Sam Houston, and Caiaphas K. Ham, who fought with Bowie during the Texas War for Independence and stuck by him during his darkest depression and slide into alcoholism following the deaths of his wife and children. Going by one report, Bowie, sick and unable to rise, was slain in his bed, though a second report adds that he slew two Mexicans with his pistols and more with his knife before being killed. Grand and compelling.
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