With his historical novel The Diezmo (Houghton Mifflin), Rick Bass graphically conveys the intense sights, sounds, and emotions of the ill-fated Mier expedition through the person of James Alexander, his fictional narrator. Sixteen-year-old James seeks glory when he rides out of La Grange with a Texas militia seeking unspecified revenge for Santa Anna’s victory at the Alamo. Instead, he finds himself part of one of the most inglorious and bloody episodes in Texas history. Bass plays the English language like a stringed instrument—full crashing chords here and gently plucked notes there—and he demonstrates how the best fiction conveys essential human truths in the guise of a ripping good tale.