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Only The Dead (Know the End of War)

Only The Dead (Know the End of War)

The 19th century saw the births, the very painful births, of both the Mexican and Texas Republics. The origin of both came at the price of a treasure of blood spilled, losses suffered and dreams crushed. In the case of Mexico, it also involved deceit, subterfuge and a woeful amount of treachery. In the case of the latter, it entailed a sanguinary war and mass summary executions by the powerful Mexican army.

This is the story of three families, two Mexican and one Texan, their struggles against savage Indians, between staunch idealists and brutal cynics and the societies that engendered them. It also makes plain the perils of a rigidly hierarchical social system and the Scots-Irish bounty of individual initiative that propelled the westward expansion of the United States.

It further chronicles the necessary compromises and heartbreaking sacrifices that all of these developments—in individuals and whole societies—unfailingly entail.


Letter from the Editor

Wow. I am bereft of words to describe the feelings I have on finishing this book. Perhaps the tears that started to fall as I read these final words say it all.

This is masterful, epic tale, evocatively and beautifully written. Thank you. I feel honored to have been your editor (although you left very little to be edited – rarely have I been a assigned a book so eloquently written).



Book Life / Publishers' Weekly Review

Notzon writes a gripping and heartfelt 19th century tale revolving around the lives of three families from Mexico and Texas, struggling to survive through wars, famines, the ever-changing political and social atmosphere, and the contested ownership of the land itself. Notzon twines the historical record of the Mexican War of Independence and the Texas Revolution with his characters’ experience of love, lust, grief, and loss as the novel spans some three decades of hotly contested land claims, skirmishes, and clashes between competing Republics. Clear throughout is how the intertwined fates of his people, many attempting to “carve out a life for themselves in this seeming wasteland,” so often are determined by forces beyond themselves, forces hungry for power.

Notzon’s take on the futility and inevitability of war is refreshing, as he gives readers a hard-hitting perspective of what it means to put one’s life on the line. “To acknowledge the humanity of those you must kill paralyzes the will,” he writes. Only the Dead proves as engaging at capturing the everyday and the drift of mind of its cast as it is when depicting monumental—sometimes harrowing—historical events involving the likes of Sam Houston and Santa Anna. Use of terms like “savage” and “barbaric” to describe indigenous people may give some readers pause, though Notzon’s project is to capture how his 19th-century cast perceives their world.

Only The Dead will inspire in readers a productive reckoning with the devastating effects of western expansion on the people and the land. Notzon poignantly writes, “This land is littered with the graves of those it conquered”—a striking reminder about the peril and hardship faced by those who, in search of better futures, dared to migrate to unknown lands that would swallow them. This is a thoughtful, persuasively detailed story of people longing for a place they can call home, both colonizers and colonized, Spaniards, Creoles, and Indians, and Mexicans and Texans.

Literary Titan Review

5 Stars - Only the Dead, authored by Jan Notzon, presents a compelling narrative set amidst the tumult of a revolutionary movement, exploring the intricate ethical dilemmas faced by individuals caught in the throes of societal upheaval. The story orbits around José Necahuatl, a character whose allegiance to Father Hidalgo is juxtaposed against his apprehensions about the uprising’s violent nature. This central conflict serves as a lens to examine the broader implications of war on personal ethics and societal norms.

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