MAX L. KNIGHT
Genre: Historical Fiction / Western
Publisher: Page Publishing, Inc.
Date of Publication: September 2, 2017
Number of Pages: 226
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Westward expansion following the civil war ushered in an era of increased conflict between the Southern Plains Indians and white settlers. Peace treaties offered temporary suspension of hostilities, but more often than not resulted in broken promises as the two cultures clashed over land. The construction of frontier forts and towns, the decimation of the buffalo herds, the movement of cattle through Indian lands to burgeoning western markets, – all of these forces threatened a way of life that had existed for centuries.
The Comanche, the Southern Cheyenne, the Kiowa, the Apache all fought to protect their customs and homelands. The clashes were characterized by savagery on both sides – Indian and white. However, finite numbers and options would ensure the tribes’ defeat; they faced certain death or forced relocation and their days were numbered.
Though the Indian wars are the focus of Palo Duro, the novel also captures the spirit of the “Old West” with its depiction of the great cattle drives from Texas into Kansas, New Mexico, Colorado and Montana, the cattle barons and the trail blazers, the outlaws and gunslingers, the lawmen and Texas Rangers, and the settlers and entrepreneurs who built this country. It chronicles an era characterized by heroism, brutality, and bold ventures while paying tribute to a genre that is fading from public consciousness – the western. It is the story of the Southwest United States towards the end of the nineteenth century and the rugged individualism that forged a nation.
5 STAR PRAISE FOR PALO DURO:
This book captured Central Texas in the post-Civil War era better than any other book I’ve read. It was well researched, well written, and easy to read. I enjoyed this book more than Empire of the Summer Moon, the standard setter. I recommend this to readers of any level, even if you dislike history, as this book is that good.
– Jeffrey R. Murray, Amazon review
Max Knight brought to life the saga of how Texas tamed their frontier. He presents a colorful experience with characters effectively placed throughout his story. If you have any interest in Texas history this book is a must read. – AmazonJacki, Amazon review
Palo Duro is an exceptional novel, well researched; a must read.
– Chuck B., Amazon review
Reading this book is a great way to deepen and appreciate one’s Texas roots – or if you are not a Texan to understand and enjoy what makes Texas, well, Texas! I found this novel to be especially entertaining as well as informative. Made me want to go back and read Lonesome Dove again! – Michael P., Amazon review
In the spirit of the old Western genre of Zane Grey and L’amour, Max Knight pays homage to our national heritage with this fictional but historically accurate labor of love that warms the heart with his vivid imagery and authentic tone of America’s illustrious and sometimes brutal past. – Chester Sosinski, Amazon review
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The Inspiration Behind the Novel
Guest Post by Max Knight
Every writer draws inspiration either from personal experience or perhaps something they’ve heard about, seen, or read to develop the next project. That was the case in late 2014 when I was considering material for my next book and came across an article in the local newspaper that captured my attention. The piece entitled “Uncovering the Hidden History of the West” had been written by a staff writer for the San Antonio Express-News by the name of Richard A. Marini and published August 14th in the Sunday edition.
In the article, Mr. Marini identified four pivotal battles with the Comanche that are at the core of my book: Blanco Canyon (October 1871), North Fork (September 1872), Adobe Walls (June 1874), and Palo Duro Canyon (September 1874). His descriptions of the events and locales in West Texas caused me to make my first trip ever to Amarillo and beyond to visit the referenced battle sites.
I had previously read S.C. Gwynne’s book, Empire of the Summer Moon, which for me is the definitive chronicle on the Comanche. After reading it and Mr. Marini’s article, I was intrigued by the distances the Comanche raiding parties covered on horseback south from Palo Duro Canyon into Mexico, all through the Texas Hill Country, and as far east as Victoria. I was also fascinated by their ability to maintain their anonymity in West Texas despite the best efforts of the U.S. Army and the Texas Rangers to locate the Comanche stronghold and put an end to their raids all along the frontier.
To appreciate their mastery of the Plains, I had to venture into the Llano Estacado (the Staked Plains) and the heart of what once was called Comancheria. Those of you who have travelled in the Texas Panhandle can appreciate Asleep at the Wheel’s song lyrics about “miles and miles of Texas.” Even by car, the trip seems endless. You also get a sense of how the Comanche seemingly disappeared into the plains and avoided detection. Today there are towns, granaries, cattle pens, and rail yards that dot the landscape, but otherwise it is much the same as it was at the turn of the nineteenth century. The land is flat with few distinguishing landmarks to provide a sense of direction. The Comanche knew the land and where to find water and shelter. Those brave enough to pursue them did not and often perished in the attempt.
Though the Comanche were the beginning of my journey, I soon realized that the book needed to be expanded to include all the Southern Plains Indians (the Kiowa, the Southern Cheyenne, the Arapahoe, and the Apache). The tribes often warred against each other but banded together to resist westward expansion.
To tell their story, I also had to tell the story of those who pushed westward into the frontier to settle and to expand the country’s boundaries east to west. As a result, the book became not only a window into the end of an era, but a western very much in the mold of earlier films and novels.
Today the western genre no longer holds the public’s attention as it once did in cinema and published media. But my generation grew up playing cowboys and Indians. Westerns ruled at the box office, on television, in books, and in our imaginations. In my youth and into my adult life, I watched the old movies and TV shows countless times while also reading and re-reading the westerns written by Alan LeMay, Louis L’Amour, Zane Grey, and more recently, Larry McMurtry. Today those same western heroes have been turned into anti-heroes, and realism and political correctness have replaced glorified portrayals of the people that were a part of our historical past.
For my part, I’ve tried with Palo Duro to portray the savage nature of the conflict between the Southern Plains Indians and white settlers and soldiers as evenly as possible without bias to either side. The characters that populate Palo Duro are a composite of both real people and products of my imagination, with deference to the former. The dialogue, with very few exceptions, is strictly fictional but captures the essence of the events portrayed and the people involved. The book pays tribute to a genre that I find enthralling and entertaining. I hope we’ll always find the western to be compelling viewing and reading and a part of our culture well into the future.
Max L. Knight was born in Panama in 1949, and was raised both in the Canal Zone and in San Antonio, Texas where he now resides with his wife, Janet “Gray.” A proud member of the Corps of Cadets and graduate of Texas A&M University (Class of ’73), he received a bachelor’s degree in English and a Regular Army commission and served the next twenty-four years as an Air Defense and Foreign Area Officer before retiring in 1997 with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. After leaving the Army, Max spent the next five years working for RCI Technologies of San Antonio, becoming its Director of Internal Operations. Separating from the company in 2002, he volunteered to be the first docent at the Alamo working within its Education Department before once again serving his country as a Counterintelligence Specialist in Europe, Central America, Asia and the Middle East through 2013. Max speaks several languages including Greek and Spanish. He also holds a Master of Science degree in government from Campbell University. He has written and published two books to date: Silver Taps, a personal memoir of his relationship with his father and a tribute to his alma mater, and Palo Duro, a novel focusing on the Indian wars in the southwestern United States at the end of the nineteenth century.
GIVEAWAY! GIVEAWAY! GIVEAWAY!
One Winner: Signed copy of Palo Duro + $20 Amazon Gift Card
Two Winners: Signed Copies of Palo Duro
JANUARY 10-19, 2018
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