THE GREAT TEXAS DANCE

From the The Tales of Zebadiah Creed series , Vol. 2

A gripping blend of dramatic fiction and historical portraiture.

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In the second installment of a historical fiction series, a man finds himself perilously embroiled in the Texas Revolution.

In 1836, Texas settlers are in open revolt against the Mexican government, attempting to establish independence. Zebadiah Creed joins the cause, enlisting in the New Orleans Greys, still reeling from the murders of his parents by the Lakota and of his brother, Jonathan, by “bushwhackin’ thieves.” Zebadiah and his pal Grainger make their way to San Antonio, but their fort at the Alamo is in grave danger, soon to be overtaken by a sea of Mexican soldiers. Both men are tasked with a dangerous mission: delivering a letter to Gen. Sam Houston urgently requesting support. But the Alamo seems increasingly doomed, and Zebadiah and Granger are sent to solicit help from the impossibly arrogant Col. James Fannin, who refuses to comply with the request or to wisely retreat when an overwhelming army of Mexican soldados arrives. Jackson’s sequel to An Eye for an Eye (2017) combines a riveting, briskly paced tale of adventure with a historically nuanced peek at the conflict—the Texans see themselves as freedom fighters while the Mexican government considers the group invaders. The plot can become overly convoluted as well as implausible—at one juncture, Zebadiah seems to believe he can negotiate a peaceful cease-fire with a Mexican general by making him a gift of his Bowie knife, a proposition even he seems embarrassed by later. Still, Zebadiah is a captivatingly nuanced character, murderously angry but morally principled. And as Deaf Smith, another soldier, observes, it’s not at all obvious why he’s there at all: “Are ya here ’cause God wants you to be here? Son, in a fight like this, ya gotta serve somebody or some higher purpose, else your just killin’ for no good reason at all.”

A gripping blend of dramatic fiction and historical portraiture.

Pub Date: April 22, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4328-6850-5

Page Count: 297

Publisher: Five Star Publishing

Review Posted Online: Aug. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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  • New York Times Bestseller


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THE MAN WHO LIVED UNDERGROUND

A welcome literary resurrection that deserves a place alongside Wright’s best-known work.

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A falsely accused Black man goes into hiding in this masterful novella by Wright (1908-1960), finally published in full.

Written in 1941 and '42, between Wright’s classics Native Son and Black Boy, this short novel concerns Fred Daniels, a modest laborer who’s arrested by police officers and bullied into signing a false confession that he killed the residents of a house near where he was working. In a brief unsupervised moment, he escapes through a manhole and goes into hiding in a sewer. A series of allegorical, surrealistic set pieces ensues as Fred explores the nether reaches of a church, a real estate firm, and a jewelry store. Each stop is an opportunity for Wright to explore themes of hope, greed, and exploitation; the real estate firm, Wright notes, “collected hundreds of thousands of dollars in rent from poor colored folks.” But Fred’s deepening existential crisis and growing distance from society keep the scenes from feeling like potted commentaries. As he wallpapers his underground warren with cash, mocking and invalidating the currency, he registers a surrealistic but engrossing protest against divisive social norms. The novel, rejected by Wright’s publisher, has only appeared as a substantially truncated short story until now, without the opening setup and with a different ending. Wright's take on racial injustice seems to have unsettled his publisher: A note reveals that an editor found reading about Fred’s treatment by the police “unbearable.” That may explain why Wright, in an essay included here, says its focus on race is “rather muted,” emphasizing broader existential themes. Regardless, as an afterword by Wright’s grandson Malcolm attests, the story now serves as an allegory both of Wright (he moved to France, an “exile beyond the reach of Jim Crow and American bigotry”) and American life. Today, it resonates deeply as a story about race and the struggle to envision a different, better world.

A welcome literary resurrection that deserves a place alongside Wright’s best-known work.

Pub Date: April 20, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-59853-676-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Library of America

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

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YELLOWFACE

A quick, biting critique of the publishing industry.

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What happens when a midlist author steals a manuscript and publishes it as her own?

June Hayward and Athena Liu went to Yale together, moved to D.C. after graduation, and are both writers, but the similarities end there. While June has had little success since publication and is struggling to write her second novel, Athena has become a darling of the publishing industry, much to June’s frustration. When Athena suddenly dies, June, almost accidentally, walks off with her latest manuscript, a novel about the World War I Chinese Labour Corps. June edits the novel and passes it off as her own, and no one seems the wiser, but once the novel becomes a smash success, cracks begin to form. When June faces social media accusations and staggering writer’s block, she can’t shake the feeling that someone knows the truth about what she’s done. This satirical take on racism and success in the publishing industry at times veers into the realm of the unbelievable, but, on the whole, witnessing June’s constant casual racism and flimsy justifications for her actions is somehow cathartic. Yes, publishing is like this; finally someone has written it out. At times, the novel feels so much like a social media feed that it’s impossible to stop reading—what new drama is waiting to unfold. and who will win out in the end? An incredibly meta novel, with commentary on everything from trade reviews to Twitter, the ultimate message is clear from the start, which can lead to a lack of nuance. Kuang, however, does manage to leave some questions unanswered: fodder, perhaps, for a new tweetstorm.

A quick, biting critique of the publishing industry.

Pub Date: May 16, 2023

ISBN: 9780063250833

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 22, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2023

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