Title: The Texicans
Author: Nina Vida
Genre/Pages: Historical Western Fiction/296
Publication: Soho Press; October 1, 2007
Rating: 3 BOOKMARKS
The wide open skies and sweeping plains of Texas are the backdrop for this Western fiction saga that tells of one man’s journey through life and the impact of those he meets along the way.
In an effort to diversify my literary diet, I recently accepted Nina Vida’s seventh novel, The Texicans, for review. I’d never read much, if anything, in this genre and had some misgivings. My tally sheet of Western History authors was skimpy at best–one Louis L’Amour novel–The Last of the Breed–which was set in Siberia and had nothing to do with the wild American frontiers of the 1800s, and no Larry McMurtry (of Lonesome Dove fame). Happily, this book was a pleasant surprise!
The Texicans tells the story of Joseph Kimmel, former trapper and school teacher, traveling from Missouri to Texas during the 1830s to settle his recently deceased brother’s affairs. Along the way, Kimmel is waylaid by myriad obstacles. After an escaped slave rides off on his horse, Kimmel struggles to survive, eventually finding himself caught up in the development of a new settlement.
Perceiving mismanagement in Castroville, a restless Kimmel sets off without a true course, encumbered by a new (and unwanted) bride. As they travel, the wagon fills with a cast of disenfranchised characters. Kimmel is helpless to resist the tears of one young Mexican woman who is rumored to have a bit of magic in her. Aurelia and her young daughter ride along with Kimmel’s wife Katrin, and three adult slaves and their two children. The motley crew continues on, under constant threat of attacks by Indians and rogue Texas Rangers.
Finally, the group finds a parcel of land and they create their own ranch. Before long, conflicts with Comanches and Rangers shatter their peace. The second part of the novel focuses on Kimmel’s internal conflicts–his unrequited obsession with Aurelia and his desire for revenge on a Texas Ranger who brought pain and suffering to his front door.
Character development was strong and even minor characters were well-developed. The characters were realistic because of their flaws, but I had trouble with the Kimmel-Aurelia angle of the story. Kimmel’s wife was desperate to please her husband but he was so enraptured by mere thought of Aurelia that he couldn’t appreciate what he had. Additionally, a large cast of minor characters were a bit challenging to keep straight.
Nina Vida’s use of language helped provide vivid imagery and the struggles of early settlers came to life. Her attention to detail helped me picture a world that I knew little about. If you’re looking for an introduction to the Western Historical fiction genre, this might just be the book for you.
Are you a Western Historical fiction reader? Have you read any L’Amour or McMurtry?