Max L. Knight
Publisher: Wild Lark Books
Date of Publication: February 23, 2023
Number of Pages: 210 pages
Do the souls of the dead reach out from beyond the grave? Do echoes of the past resound through the ages? Are such insights a privilege or a curse? An old man grapples with these questions and his own mortality as he re-examines one of the most famous battles in history – the Alamo.
The 1836 siege and battle as well as current efforts to restore Alamo Plaza to hallowed ground and create a world-class attraction unfold as the old man tries to make sense of his memories, dreams, and perceived outreach by the dead whose souls cry out to him for inclusion and recognition. Beyond the myth and the legend are their stories as well as his own.
Ghostly Bugles is a fictional re-creation of the Alamo story, rich in historical detail with a unique paranormal element. The narrative combines elements of the traditional storyline with contemporary efforts to “Re-imagine the Alamo.” The dual timelines balance our understanding of this world-renowned event and provide new perspective and appreciation for the courage and sacrifice of everyone involved – Texian and Tejano defenders and Mexican soldiers.
Clueless Gent’s Rating for Ghostly Bugles
Ghostly Bugles is a stunning and very personal look into what it may have been like both inside and outside the walls of the Alamo during those fateful days in 1836. After all that’s been written about that battle over the last 150 years, it would be natural to assume that no fresh perspectives could be found. I think this author indeed found a new perspective!
The story—which is fictional but based on actual events—is told primarily through the eyes (and mind) of an old man in present day San Antonio. The author did not provide a name for this sole character, but I think that adds to the mystique of the story. Since he was a young boy he’s been drawn to the Alamo. As he aged and spent more time on that hallowed ground, he began to hear from both the combatants and non-combatants in his dreams; sometimes he would even experience a presence of them when he was on those grounds. Through those dreams and experiences, the reader can glean tremendous insight into what they could have thought and felt and said during the siege.
There are so many things I really like about this story that I don’t really know where to start. I think I’ll start with the facts.
Author Max Knight clearly did some tremendous research in developing this story. Not only did the story include specifics from the battle, but it also included contemporary preservation actions and varying viewpoints. For example, the author included his opinion on current assertions that slavery was the main cause of the battle. I doubt that’s something the average visitor to the Alamo would know anything about.
Something else the author discussed was what if Texas did not free itself from Mexican dominance. If that were the case, history would probably remember the defenders that died at the Alamo as renegades and the Mexican soldiers would be the heroes, quashing an insurrection. There’s a lot to think about in this book.
“Courage is defined by doing extraordinary things under extraordinary circumstances. Valor is the willingness to sacrifice one’s own life for someone else. Neither is determined by a national flag.”
Using the old man to tell much of the story was a great vehicle for only including the relevant bits and pieces from the battle. For instance, rather than having to provide details over the entire battle, as would be the case if the entire story took place during the siege, the author could select specific moments that he wanted to highlight. I think many of those moments are the points of entry for the fictional side of the story, but they all seem reasonably likely the way the author tells it.
Those moments when the old man recounts some of his dreams really drew me into this story. These snippets of fiction are very personal and relate to specific thoughts and feelings of people on both sides of the Alamo walls. One such person is a very young bugler in the Mexican army. (No – that’s not where the title comes from.) Another such person is a defender who volunteered to hide outside the walls and give the alarm when the Mexican forces attack. Another such person is a follower of James Bowie, who leaves Bowie’s side and tries to escape as the Mexican forces pour into the Alamo. Although these people are likely imaginary (Bowie is not imaginary), those snippets provided some perspective to what it may have been like.
I think my only negative about the book is that it didn’t have any illustrations or photos. I think a map of the Alamo grounds at the time of the battle, as well as an overhead photo of the current grounds, would have given me even greater perspective. I know that maps of the Alamo are pretty easy to find, but I doubt they would include some of the specifics that the author highlights.
As a bonus, I think the author did a fabulous job of presenting his interpretation of spiritual life after death. I’ve never read anything quite like it, and I liked it very much.
This book is a must-read for all Texans, as well as anyone who considers the Alamo to be hallowed ground. I think my mind will be churning on this story for a long time to come.
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2 thoughts on “Ghostly Bugles”
Loved, loved this book! Fab review.
Wow- we touched on so many of the same points in our reflections of the book. What I didn’t say that you did, and 100% agree about, is that this is indeed a new (and unique) perspective on the Battle of the Alamo. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!