Open Preview See a Problem? Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. Preview — The Diezmo by Rick Bass. The Diezmo by Rick Bass. The Diezmo tells the incredible story of the Mier Expedition, one of the most absurd and tragic military adventures in the history of Texas -- a country and a state, as Rick Bass writes, that was "born in blood. But their dreams of triumph soon fade into prayers for survival, and all that is on their minds is getting home and having a cool drink of water.
After being captured in a raid on the Mexican village of Mier, escaping, and being recaptured, the men of the expedition are punished with the terrible diezmo, in which one man in ten is randomly chosen to die. The survivors end up in the most dreaded prison in Mexico. There they become pawns in an international chess game to decide the fate of Texas, and with their hopes of release all but extinguished, they make one desperate, last-ditch effort to escape. A great crossover book with appeal for high school students. It will also interest readers of westerns and historical fiction.
Hardcover , pages. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about The Diezmo , please sign up. Lists with This Book. This book is not yet featured on Listopia. May 31, Kirk Smith rated it really liked it Shelves: This is a good Western and a fascinating bit of history. A great reminder of why Texans are always so Big on their independence!
A land paid for in blood, in the time period to disputes over the border were cause for marauding and frequent skirmishes between Texians and the armies of Santa Anna. The book follows the fate of a band of Texas militia recruits who make a foray across the border into Mexico. That is just the beginning of the misadventures that will keep them from home soil This is a good Western and a fascinating bit of history. That is just the beginning of the misadventures that will keep them from home soil for many years. I was very pleased to read a Rick Bass novel for the first time, so much of his work being short stories.
Very well done it is simply told, vaguely reminds me of a Conrad adventure, and the landscape is very close to that of Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian. A tale of extreme hardship. Sep 08, Josh rated it really liked it. This is a war book, but not in a "black hawk down" way. It's a history book, but not in the "four score and seven years ago" way. It is a wilderness book but not in the "look at all the beauty of nature" kind of way. For some readers, this may seem to drag on a bit, but for me, the Epilogue gave the entire text a meaning, a purpose, an emotion. I think Bass is masterful in the way he bridges huge points within a somewhat simple story about suffering, key decisions, and the raw gut level human em This is a war book, but not in a "black hawk down" way.
I think Bass is masterful in the way he bridges huge points within a somewhat simple story about suffering, key decisions, and the raw gut level human emotions present in all but expressed in so few. I get that some compare this to Blood Meridian; the setting is similar, the experience is very much the same, the same questions about humanity's motives He is equally profound in the story as Cormac was in BM, but far gentler in carrying you through the sun drenched, God forsaken landscapes that these early invaders lived through largely they actually died there.
Written in the first few days after the invasion of Baghdad, I think Bass' main point is to be careful regarding war mongering. He sees the fact that mankind will always be positioned to defending ones self BUT he illustrates that it's different than invading another for the pure lust of war. I am certain there are many other points he intended to make but I was caught in the story and likely missed a bunch. Its all put into motion in a story from years ago- the time when Texas stood independent from Mexico but was not yet officially in the USA.
The narrator is now an old man, telling his perspectives as a young man. Despite the years between the "doing" and the "telling", the foundations of his emotions are as strong or stronger some 50 years after the fact. Good stuff- I get you man. Oct 06, Heather C. A fantastic story with an ancestor of mine in it, so all the more interesting, as I grew up knowing the story of the diezmo in regards to this man. But this is a novel, with the real expedition woven into it. I love just about anything Rick Bass writes, and this was no disappointment. It would be hard to not draw a comparison between The Diezmo and Cormac McCarthy's All the Pretty Horses--two young Texans, looking for adventure, head south of the new border and get more than they bargained for i A fantastic story with an ancestor of mine in it, so all the more interesting, as I grew up knowing the story of the diezmo in regards to this man.
It would be hard to not draw a comparison between The Diezmo and Cormac McCarthy's All the Pretty Horses--two young Texans, looking for adventure, head south of the new border and get more than they bargained for in violence and a world they know nothing about. There is even a beautiful young Mexican girl who the narrator falls for, but can't ever hope to have, as she is the daughter of an important Mexican official.
I think I would have given it five stars if the narrator hadn't made me so crazy with his endless hemming and hawing.
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Of course, had he never gone, or escaped right away there would be no story View all 3 comments. Jul 18, Sharon rated it it was amazing Shelves: The Diezmo The Tithe is a top-flight historical novel, artfully told and tied to real events in Texas history. The Mier Expedition, Texans raiding Mexico, is the topic. As Rick Bass's story grew more unbelievable and outrageous, I flipped to the net to fact-check the crazier stuff. The prison and the moat were real.
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The "tithe" is based on a what Texas History. May 27, Flesha rated it really liked it. This is a book about war, and capture with all the blood, gore, boredom, chaos, and fear that goes with it. This novel shares the story of the Mier Expedition from the point of view of a teen soldier. Feb 26, Larry rated it liked it. A band of Texicans seeking adventure and glory get much more than they bargained for. They proceed to start a mini-war with Mexico, destroy a village, get captured and struggle to survive. I read this awhile ago. Aug 13, Alan rated it it was amazing Shelves: And I loved Blood Meridian.
Jan 25, Alison rated it really liked it. I don't normally gravitate towards war stories, but this was a good one.
The novel follows the members of the failed Meir Expedition, in which volunteer soldiers from the Nation of Texas ah, those were the days attempted to pillage their way through Mexico. But the Texans are caught and the story mostly details their subsequent time as prisoners of the Mexican army. There are some incredibly intense scenes - the Diezmo being chief among them - but also plenty of quiet reflection from the narrat I don't normally gravitate towards war stories, but this was a good one.
There are some incredibly intense scenes - the Diezmo being chief among them - but also plenty of quiet reflection from the narrator. He has time to consider fate and free will, to ponder action versus inaction, and to figure out how one might maintain a sense of humanity in an extended imprisonment.
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The narrator is telling the story as an old man looking back at his 16 year old self, so the reader is treated to both wisdom and naivety. My only complaint about the book is that the Diezmo is really the climax of the story, but occurs near the middle. Everything that happens afterward is a march to the inevitable you know he gets out, because he's an old man now! Really, though, an engaging and well written story which I recommend mostly to Dan. Oct 01, Christy rated it really liked it. Well-known outdoor writer Rick Bass tells the story of the infamous Mier Expedition, a group of wildcats who, in , crossed the Texas border into Mexico, attacked a village, and were captured.
They were marched across Mexico, and most of them died. Hence, the "diezmo" The men who drew the black beans were taken out and shot. My great-great grandfat Well-known outdoor writer Rick Bass tells the story of the infamous Mier Expedition, a group of wildcats who, in , crossed the Texas border into Mexico, attacked a village, and were captured.
A workmanlike retelling, in the form of a survivor's memoir, of the filibustering excesses of a group of Texas patriots who set out to defend the borders of their new republic but stumble, instead, into a confrontation with vastly superior Mexican forces on the Mexican side of the Rio Grande; this tale captures the naive eagerness and unabashed savagery of the glory-crazed Texas combatants through the eyes of a diffident and surprisingly passive narrator.
Fifteen year old James Alexander and his boon companion James Shepherd respond to the call to glory and the defense of their newly born nation when a contingent of Texas irregulars arrives on a recruiting mission in their small rural community. Excited by the promises of glory they are swiftly swept up in an ill-conceived and badly executed campaign which rapidly descends into looting and pillage of Mexican communities along the border and then, after a riotous slaughter in the town of Laredo, devolves into an excursion on the Mexican side against the Mexican town of Mier. But the leaders of the unit of irregulars fall to quarreling and indecisiveness as one of their number refuses to cross the river and takes his troops home while the others conceal their orders which proscribe atrocities against the indigenous Mexican communities as they lead their men on a mission of brutal slaughter and theft.
The remaining troops with the two rogue leaders pursue a dream of military conquest, only to stumble into a Mexican force that is many times the size of their own. Undaunted and without regard to the reality of this mismatch, and after much bloody fighting, the Texans are borne down by the greater numbers arrayed against them. Their inevitable surrender begins what is to become a long nightmare of brutal captivity as the Mexicans force them to clean and rebuild the town they have destroyed and then march them south, ever deeper into Mexico, parading them before the local towns and villages where they are further brutalized.
Forced labor and even more horrific imprisonment await them. After an abortive attempt at escape, the remnants of the Texans is forced to participate in a lottery wherein one in ten of their number will be shot, the rest to suffer endless and degrading imprisonment. The story follows the awakening of the fictional James Alexander to the foolishness of his choice to pursue war and glory and of his failure, after the horrors of the enterprise began to strike home with him, to yank himself free of the passivity that allowed him to be swept along in the atrocities of his associates until their comeuppance before superior Mexican forces.
More forethought on the part of their leaders alone would probably have spared them their defeat while certainly sparing the Mexican villagers the rapine and pillage wrought by the Texans before the Mexican army overwhelmed them. More energetic assertion of his own intentions would have likely removed young Alexander from the ensuing carnage and suffering.
Young James comes of age in his captivity, realizing all that he has lost as he tells his story from the vantage point of advanced age many years afterwards. When we leave him at the end, we see only a lonely and isolated man who has retreated into a kind of self-imposed exile from those around him, reliving and regretting the stupidity that drove him, in his youth, to such wanton destruction, costing the life of his good friend and, perhaps, his own once richer future.
Rick Bass has written an anti-war tale in the guise of an apparently accurate historical account of events from Texas history. But the narrative is marred by certain limitations including the personal isolation of its narrator and the odd lapses in the memoirist voice. Alexander tells us things he shouldn't know were he a real person, as when he describes a rock as being the shape of the map of Mexico it's unlikely a back country Texas farm boy would have had a good picture of the geography of that country, especially in a time of shifting borders like that was or when he provides precise details as to the distances of places.
At such moments the author's own historically educated voice appears to creep in and overhelm the narrator's. And yet, despite a slow and somewhat abstract start to the book, I found the tale compelling, particularly after their travails on the long trail to imprisonment in the south -- and, afterwards, during their time in the prison fortress into which they are finally thrust.
There is a brief and hard-to-credit romantic interlude when young Alexander attracts the school age daughter of a Mexican officer who is building a road and for which purpose Alexander and his cronies have been impressed into service but it doesn't go far and, given the tale's stark ending, we are led to suspect that this was to be the high point of the Texas youth's romantic life due in part, at least, to the terrible toll the war and imprisonment imposed on him. Overall the foolishness and emptiness of war's reckless violence and vanity are the real characters of this tale in which the various leaders, William Fisher, Thomas Jefferson Green and Bigfoot Wallace, legends in Texas history, come across as superficial and vainglorious fools, overbearing and in search of loot and glory above all else.
It's an antidote to the oft imagined glory of war and yet it is finally one-sided since it cannot stand as a proxy for all wars ever fought. After all, if the Texans are brutal and racist in their aggressive behavior in crossing over to loot the Mexican town of Mier, then can the Mexican soldiery who defended Mier and beat the rampaging Texans be equally bad? If one side is the aggressor, whichever side we think it to be, then there is a good side in war, too, found finally in those who stand against the aggression.
Bass offers credit to neither side, however, in his narration which focuses on war's futility through the eyes of this young Texan while ignoring the value of defending Mier and other communities against those men who have come to the town for rapine and pillage.
It's a quandary for all those who condemn war out of hand and something that may never be easily reconciled for war is, finally, a brutal and dehumanizing thing that plays no favorites in the violence it visits on winners and losers both. Bass recounts the story of a troop of sometimes reluctant, but always relentless men ostensibly fighting for their new nation of Texas.
The historical incident, obscure to most of us, is well known to Texans, the retaliation for the Battle of San Jacinto. We come to know what drives some of them and the regrets of others. Mostly, we marvel at their capacity for survival. When everything is taken away from them; when they live day after day in toil and torture, infested with an army of lice and tested by disease after disease, they still have the ability to experience the small joy that comes with the minutest reprieve.
There is little joy in reading the book, though the author presents the story as well we could expect. Like castor oil, though, it may be good for us to see those so eager for war get their wish, then regret it for every minute of their lives. I was reluctant to continue after hearing some of the horrific deeds commited by the men who after reading the dustjacket I thought to be Texas heroes. But just as I was appalled I was mesmerized into reading throughout the night in hopes of learning how their fates played out. And as I write this just a few minutes later I am wondering how the survivors fared, the ones that were less critical to the story at hand but may have played a more powerful and less publicized role.
Overall I recommend this to anyone with an interest in Texas I found this book to be an excellent historical novelation or is it a novelation of a historic event? Anyway, as someone who is familiar with Texas history, I still found much to admire about this novelisation novelization? It is made more interesting by the centering of the story on one fictional character, intermixed with real, historic figures. I would recommend the book highly to anyone wanting to learn about this tragic event in Texas history, as well as anyone wanting to read an exciting, bloody story in its own right.
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