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
“Only one thing about her new life bothered Molly – the continued slaughter of the buffalo. The hunters killed the cows leaving the calves to starve to death. Their cries as they stayed by the dead carcasses of their mothers could be heard across the prairie and their pitiful bawling moved her to action.”
With that one paragraph Max L. Knight captures the wantless destruction of the buffalo from the Western landscape. In his novel, Palo Duro, he retells the horrific, savage wars and interactions between Indians and government soldiers. It also recounts cattle drives, Buffalo Soldiers, to the beginnings of the Texas Rangers.
What I loved the most about Palo Duro are the thirteen books within its covers that blend retold U.S. history in the fifty-nine chapters seamlessly. So much history is within these reimagined historical fiction chapters and Knight masterfully, intermingled that history from page to page.
As a grad student in anthropology, I was exposed to the countless history of the Indian wars through various books and journal articles. Most of those books only touched the surface of what occurred with the Indians. While Knight’s book is a fictional account so much of it carries historical truths woven with brilliant creative writing. Like how Oliver Loving really died to Molly Goodnight saving the last historical buffalo. Part of that herd she saved now freely roams Caprock Canyons State Park. Yes – Geronimo is buried in Oklahoma.
Another interesting aspect of Knight’s book is describing the lives of women back in the 1800s. Life was not all roses and poetry for the majority of women and he gives readers a good insight into what life was really like for them.
If you have a love for U.S. history and want an interesting take on it then Palo Duro is must read. It’s a fast read with the best conservational tones. Knight is correct that most people are forgetting and becoming disinterested in our real U.S. history. With the Indians being placed on reservations and the mass killing of the bison, an era did come to end – one that we must not forget. Maybe Knight’s book will rekindle interest again in our history, especially Texas history.
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.