A Texas novel about statehood, Santa Anna, the Alamo, Sam Houston and so on, this opens with an original gimmick. Hellfire Jackson is a big, tough galoot of an atheist who one day gets ""the call"" from the Lord and a special message. Texas still belongs to Mexico and Catholicism is the rigidly enforced state religion to which every U.S. settler must become converted. Protestantism is the work of Satan. The Lord's message is that Jackson must go into Texas and evangelize the Catholics back into the bosom of hellfire-and-brimstone Protestantism. Accompanied by his freed slave, Jackson blunders into politics while trying to keep peace between the Texans and Mexicans. When his patience is finally worn to the limits, he rides with the Texans--with a Bible in one hand and a rifle in the other. Even so, his peacemaking actions effect several reconciliations, which are believable enough, although he cannot deflect the climactic slaughter's course. Over this is suspended his bumbling romance with a schoolteacher...The provinces may still get genuine nourishment out of these cliches, but urban folk will wonder how Jackson survives the length of a novel without one fleshly thought.