Mirabeau Lamar seeks nothing less than a Texas empire that will dominate the North American continent. Brave exploits at the Battle of San Jacinto bring him rank, power, and prestige, which by 1838 propel him to the presidency of the young Republic of Texas and put him in position to achieve his dream. Edward Fontaine, who works for and idolizes Lamar, vows to help his hero overcome all obstacles, including the substantial power of Sam Houston. Houston and Lamar are not only political, but personal enemies, and each man regards the other with contempt.
Edward's slave Jacob likes and admires his master, but cannot share his hatred of Sam Houston. The loyalties of both Jacob and Edward are tested by President Lamar's belief that a righteous cause justifies any means necessary to sustain it. Lamar becomes infatuated with a married woman who resembles his deceased wife. He sends the woman's husband on the ill-fated Santa Fe Expedition, the failure of which humiliates Lamar and provokes a crisis in his relationship with Edward, who in turn jeopardizes the trust that Jacob has placed in him. Edward laments the waste of Lamar's genius, while Jacob marvels at the hypocrisy of both men.
Interview 1: Author Jeffrey Stuart Kerr
How has being a Texan influenced your writing? Since my novel is about Texas, I am writing about a place I know better than any other. I believe I am able to deliver an authenticity to my characters that would be more difficult to achieve for non-Texans.
Why did you choose to write on this particular topic? The Texas frontier offers so many varied and unique story opportunities. We have much in common with the people who populated the frontier; I enjoy exploring those similarities. At the same time, our predecessors faced challenges we can only imagine today. I find myself constantly wondering what I might do in their shoes.
Where did your love of reading come from? Both of my parents were avid readers, but my father in particular was never without a book. Our house overflowed with books, magazines, and newspapers. As my mother always says, “If you can read, you’ll never be bored.”
How long have you been writing? I first began writing seriously about fifteen years ago when I conceived the idea for my first book, “Austin, Texas – Then and Now.” When I finished that book, I realized that I wanted to write another. That drive to create has been with me ever since.
What kind(s) of writing do you do? I have written three non-fiction books and, for several years, wrote a Texas history blog. More recently I have turned to fiction. In addition to Lamar’s Folly, my first published novel, I have completed several other manuscripts and also written or co-written several screenplays.
What cultural value do you see in books and writing and storytelling? The written word remains our best means of communicating over distance and time. Without it, we would each exist in a much smaller cultural universe.
What do you think most characterizes your writing? I strive always to entertain. I want the reader to have trouble putting the book down. I therefore aim for lively dialog, clear, concise descriptive passages, and compelling storyline.
What was the hardest part of writing this book? Writing the slave Jacob’s recollections. I wanted his character and intelligence to shine through his lack of formal education. The hard part was injecting authenticity into his speech without crossing the line into offensive caricature.
How important are names to you in your books? How do you choose names? Names are very important. I look for those that are uncommon, but not gimmicky and that provide a hint of the nature of that character.
Which character from your book(s) is most or least like you? I wish I could say Sam Houston, for his courage and equanimity under intense pressure, but a more honest answer would be Edward Fontaine, the young, naïve secretary who finds it hard to see past his admiration for a person he admires.
What projects are you working on at the present? My writing partner and I are putting the finishing touches on a screenplay that we intend to use for shooting a feature film. I am working on two other screenplays and am developing the idea for a novel about the difficulties adult children face when a parent develops dementia.
What’s your funniest flaw? I often say no as a reflex and then change my mind.
If you could time travel, to what time period would you first visit? Tough question, but I think I’d like to see ancient Rome at the height of its glory.
What is your favorite quote? “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.” Abraham Lincoln
Do you have a mantra for writing and/or for life? Life is not a race.
Jeffrey Stuart Kerr is the author of several titles, including Seat of Empire: The Embattled Birth of Austin, Texas, winner of the Summerfield G. Roberts Award and a True West Best Western Book.
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