Mississippi Books and Writers

June 2006

Note: Prices listed below reflect the publisher's suggested list price. They are subject to change without notice.

The Diezmo: A Novel

By Rick Bass

Mariner Books (Paperback, $13.95, ISBN: 0618710507)

Publication date: June 2006

Description from Booklist:

Whether Bass is writing his profoundly affecting narrative nonfiction, which includes Caribou Rising (2004), or such spellbinding short story collections as The Hermit’s Story (2002), he expresses awe over life’s glory and ruefulness over humankind’s folly. Bass has now perfected his novelist’s voice in this commanding tale inspired by the Mier Expedition, an infamous chapter in the brief and bloody story of the Republic of Texas. Bass’ eminently trustworthy narrator, James Alexander, is still in his teens when he and a friend impulsively join a militia ordered by Sam Houston to patrol the border with Mexico, but which, instead, turns rogue, crosses the Rio Grande, and slaughters innocent people and soldiers alike. James and many of his worse-for-wear cohorts are captured, shackled, put to work building a road, then imprisoned in an isolated, vermin-infested mountain fortress, all the while suffering brutal deprivations and terrors (one Mexican commander enforces the diezmo, or tithe, arbitrarily executing 1 prisoner in 10). As Bass recounts the prisoners’ epic suffering and consequential stoicism, he achieves the molten beauty, compassion, and longing for justice found in Stephen Crane’s Red Badge of Courage and the novels of B. Traven and Cormac McCarthy. But he also articulates his signature passion for life’s endless improvisations and persistence as manifest in everything from the grandeur of desert landscapes to lice, orchids, jaguars, a young woman in love, and even the cruelty and aberrations of men entangled in illegitimate warfare, a tragic practice we seem doomed to perpetuate generation after generation.

—Donna Seaman. Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved.

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