On my last visit to Killeen, Texas, Patrick Anderson, of Texas Overlooked Books, strongly recommended I read a book by Edwin Shrake entitled Blessed McGill. Respecting the opinion of my well-read, book-loving friend, I ordered the book from Barnes & Noble (J.M. Hardy Publishing). I found this a most enjoyable read, and if you like Texas history, you will too. A.C. Greene (the Dean of Texas Letters ) rated this book as one of the 50 best books on Texas.
The novel is one of those you read that if you didn’t know it was a novel you would swear that it was a true story. Edwin Shrake is a skilled writer. This novel has an edge to it, with a naturalistic style and strength that reminds me of Cormac McCarthy. It is written in first person, and if you like chasing words and historical events, people, folklore, and Native American information–including the border tribes, the Comanches, the Lipan Apaches–the novel is so rich in these details that you will have a fine and rewarding time as Shrake takes you into terrain–both inner and outer–that you never dreamed existed. The book is definitely a vocabulary builder. The themes are the eternal ones that never fail to move us, exploring dimensions of death, love, revenge, greed, and adventure that made it hard for me to put the novel down once I started. Shrake himself is a fascinating individual
To close, there are so many great lines in the novel that I don’t know which to list, but here are a few:
“My father told me that birth is real, death is real, and all between is a game. It is hard to quarrel with that” (3).
“Some time after that I had the pleasure of skinning Chinaman-face, who was alive when I began but of course did not survive the project” (55).
“Boy,” my father said to me, “it is too nice a day to spoil it by beating you for your ignorance and lack of respect” (21).