The San Antonio native—a former Guggenheim and Dobie Paisano fellow—offers his fourth novel, Tehano. The lively, sprawling fiction is set in Texas’s tumultuous post–Civil War period.
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What about this era appealed to your novelist instincts? During the war, so many men left Texas to fight in the East that the Comanches moved the western frontier eastward by one hundred to two hundred miles. In June of 1875 Quanah Parker and his tribe were the last Comanches to give up and go onto the reservation. That period, between the Civil War and Quanah’s surrender in Texas, was appealing because it seemed that the stakes were high and some conclusion was imminent.
Did you stumble across any surprising findings in your research? A lot of what I learned surprised me, probably because so much of the Texas history I knew came from family stories or, worse, Hollywood. I’d envisioned a wise old Comanche chief with a long feather headdress; then I read that Comanches did not revere old age and did not have permanent chiefs. They did not wear feather headdresses until the late nineteenth century.
Did Tehano say everything you’d hoped? As long as Tehano is [736 pages], the first draft was twice as long. Even now, I feel as if things are not finished. But I like that notion, that signals still rise from that time and place.