Reading Along With 
James Donovan

The latest Alamo 
chronicler offers a glimpse of his reference library.
Reading Along With 
James Donovan<strong></strong>
James Donovan, at his home in Duncanville on March 26, 2012.
Photograph by LeAnn Mueller

In 2008, after Dallas author James Donovan hit the best-seller lists with his first book, A Terrible Glory: Custer and the Little Bighorn, his editor, Geoff Shandler, asked what he wanted to write next. Donovan sent him a long proposal on the sinking of the Titanic. Shandler turned him down, saying he wanted Donovan to stay focused on the West. Thinking fast, Donovan said, “Well, there’s this thing that happened down here in 1836 called the Alamo.”

Shandler was delighted by the idea—apparently, even the hoariest Texas stories sound sexy to New Yorkers—and Donovan suddenly found himself immersed in our state’s pivotal event. The 57-year-old says that though it’s almost impossible to know what happened at the Alamo, he hopes The Blood of Heroes: The 13-Day Struggle for the Alamo—and the Sacrifice That Forged a Nation (Little, Brown, $29.99) will “scrape the myths and legends off this story.”

Although Alamo books continue to be published every year, from cheerful children’s literature ( C.C. and the Alamo Cats) to oddly geographically specific memoirs (Now’s the Day and Now’s the Hour: Scotland Remembers the Alamo), Donovan says only a handful are genuinely important. Here are a half dozen works that he found particularly valuable:

1. The Alamo Reader, edited by Todd Hansen (Stackpole, 2003): “The one book any serious student of the battle must have is an 837-page compendium of source material—virtually every 
primary, secondary, or tertiary account, from newspaper stories and oral accounts to Mexican military after-action reports. A herculean feat of research and endlessly fascinating.”

2. With

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