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Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Eagle and The Raven by James Michener


Published in 1991 by Tor.

This is an odd effort in many ways. Coming in at just 211 pages of text (plus about 20 pages of appendices), this is a tiny Michener book. It is even more tiny when you consider that 28 pages of this book is a forward by Michener and about 20 pages of the book are taken up with blank pages between chapters and illustrations.

This Michener paperback was published in 1991 by Tor, a publishing house more well-known for its sci-fi and fantasy offerings. I would imagine that they just wanted to cash in on the Michener name since he was in the midst of a real hit streak with such books as Alaska, Caribbean and Poland becoming best-sellers.

Tor calls this book a novel, although only a few pages really qualify as a novel, with inserted character dialogue that was most likely created by Michener. The rest of it is really best described as a comparative biography. While not the best of historical works, "The Eagle and the Raven" provides a comparison between Sam Houston of Tennessee and Texas and Santa Anna of Mexico. This is not a detailed biography by any means. I found myself wishing that he had went into a lot more detail, especially with the Mexican political situation.


James Michener (1907-1997)

Michener's forward to the book describes how and why he seemed to re-double his efforts as an author as he reached his eighties. In many ways, this is the most interesting portion of the book, especially if you are a Michener fan. In this forward the reader discovers that this book was actually a discarded chapter from his earlier book, Texas. He did something similar with a discarded chapter from Alaska.

It would be fair to say that Michener did not give this chapter the same editorial treatment that he gave Texas. Two factual errors jumped out at me as I read it - usually Michener and his editors catch them. Michener incorrectly attributes the eagle motiff on the Mexican flag to a Mayan legend (actually it was Aztec) and he claims Mexico was the first country in the New World to abolish slavery (it was Haiti). A little more editing would have eliminated the tiny amount of fiction that Michener inserted into the text (about 5 pages of conversation in a section at the end of the book) and Michener could have published this one as a dual biography rather than as a novel.

I give this book 3 stars out of 5.
 
Reviewed on June 11, 2007.

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