Rick Bass is a writer known for his intense concern for the natural world, a concern evinced in both his fiction and his nonfiction. In The Diezmo, his second novel, Bass turns his imagination toward the historical world and recreates an event that informed the early days of the Texas Republic in the nineteenth century. Bass's Texas in this novel is the post-Alamo Texas, the Texas seeking independence and status and identity; for this moment, Texas is not yet a part of the United States and is recognized only partially as “American”—indeed, what that very word means is unclear and slippery. Those Americans who live in this territory find themselves wounded by their war with Mexico. As a result, the spirit of the men and women—but the men, especially, in this novel—is alive with the desire for a kind of vengeance.
The Diezmo is, then, the story of one attempt to slake some of that desire. The Mier Expedition was an historical venture put together by men who saw themselves as committed to and engaged in a just cause. Their vision was heroic, their hearts middling clean, their motives a muddle of heroism and greed and jingoism. It is this mix of impulses which Bass finds so intriguing and which he explores through the voice of his narrator, a survivor of the expedition who looks back now fifty years later and retells the bleak tale. What readers hear in this man's tempered and compelling voice (a testament to Bass's skill as a...
(The entire section is 449 words.)