Review: :LAMAR’S FOLLY by Jeffrey Stuart Kerr

 BNR Lamar's Folly PNG


Jeffrey Stuart Kerr
  Genre: Texas Historical Fiction
Publisher: Texas Tech University Press
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Date of Publication: November 15, 2017
Number of Pages: 320
Mirabeau Lamar seeks nothing less than a Texas empire that will dominate the North American continent. Brave exploits at the Battle of San Jacinto bring him rank, power, and prestige, which by 1838 propel him to the presidency of the young Republic of Texas and put him in position to achieve his dream. Edward Fontaine, who works for and idolizes Lamar, vows to help his hero overcome all obstacles, including the substantial power of Sam Houston. Houston and Lamar are not only political, but personal enemies, and each man regards the other with contempt.
Edward’s slave Jacob likes and admires his master, but cannot share his hatred of Sam Houston. The loyalties of both Jacob and Edward are tested by President Lamar’s belief that a righteous cause justifies any means necessary to sustain it. Lamar becomes infatuated with a married woman who resembles his deceased wife. He sends the woman’s husband on the ill-fated Santa Fe Expedition, the failure of which humiliates Lamar and provokes a crisis in his relationship with Edward, who in turn jeopardizes the trust that Jacob has placed in him. Edward laments the waste of Lamar’s genius, while Jacob marvels at the hypocrisy of both men.
Growing up Texan gave me a certain deep-rooted respect for its history.  It’s like that with just about every Texan.  Just ask one.  So, given the opportunity to read/review a piece of historical fiction featuring this subject was not only an opportunity to read a story, but my duty as a Texan (I know, I know.  You’re rolling your eyes.  Seriously, go ask another Texan, and you’ll get the same thing.  It’s just how we are.)
I love a good fictional account of a period of history I know a lot about, and LAMAR’S FOLLY delivered.  As any good fictional account of real events should do, the story left me guessing.  Who were these people REALLY?  Texas history is always larger than life, as are the stories of the major players, such as Sam Houston and Mirabeau Lamar.  LAMAR’S FOLLY gave these characters back a semblance of realism, with character flaws and personality that the history books just can’t teach.  It was fun to imagine these men, especially through the alternating point of view of Edward Fontaine and his slave, Jacob.  What I really enjoyed was seeing what each character perceived from the same situations, each with their own notion of right and wrong, and each with their own hope for the future.  The alternating point of views gave this story the perfect balance of realism, keeping Fontaine’s aspirations from taking over the story with Jacobs straight-forward accounts of what he witnessed and felt in reaction to the same situations.
If you change the setting and characters of the story to another place in history, the story remains the same.  It’s the timeless story of ambition, pride and jealousy causing the ruin of a country, much like Napolean Boanaparte (how strange that Lamar’s shares this surname as his middle name).   Mirabeau Lamar, though portrayed as modest and humble at the start,  fed off the rank and power he gained as he climbed to the Presidency of the Republic of Texas.  This power was fueled by his disdain and all out contempt for the popularity of Sam Houston in the new republic.  What happens with the expedition to Santa Fe is the result of his ambitions for more power and his need to show up Houston, thus turning the outlook of a young nation very dark, and causes rifts in the foundation of his power, his relationships.  Poignant.
I recommend LAMAR’S FOLLY to anyone who likes a good historical fiction, but especially to those Texas History buffs who like to do a little bit of “what if” from time to time.
Jeffrey Stuart Kerr is the author of several titles, including Seat of Empire: The Embattled Birth of Austin, Texas, winner of the Summerfield G. Roberts Award and a True West Best Western Book.

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