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The Gates of the Alamo

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3.99  ·  Rating Details ·  1,017 Ratings  ·  136 Reviews
A huge, riveting, deeply imagined novel about the siege and fall of the Alamo, an event that formed the consciousness of Texas and that resonates through American history. With its vibrant, unexpected characters and its richness of authentic detail, The Gates of the Alamo is an unforgettable re-creation of a time, a place, and a heroic conflict.

The time is 1835. At the cen
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ebook, 592 pages
Published May 1st 2001 by Knopf (first published 2000)
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Gerry Germond "This one" is a novel and a good read; Three Roads to the Alamo is a large "tri-biography" of Crockett, Bowie, and Travis. The author, William C.…more"This one" is a novel and a good read; Three Roads to the Alamo is a large "tri-biography" of Crockett, Bowie, and Travis. The author, William C. Davis, writes in a rather, to me, dry style and Bowie's financial misdeeds are hard to follow, but it's good history regardless. He's mentioned by Harrigan as having helped with (advice?) with The Gates of the Alamo.(less)
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Community Reviews

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Matt
May 21, 2013 Matt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The battle of the Alamo concluded on March 6, 1836, outside of San Antonio, Texas. The separatist forces – comprised of a motley group of Anglo-Saxon immigrants, Tejanos, and American aliens – were wiped out by the Mexican forces of General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. It is one of the most famous battles in American history. It has been written about, sung about, and filmed countless times. It has spawned a whole legion of passionate fans who argue and debate every aspect of the fight.

Anyone w
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Steven Z.
Mar 29, 2016 Steven Z. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The story of the Alamo is clouded in myths and counter myths. Your personal belief is probably dependent upon your high school social studies education. It is a story that most Americans know because of the countless books and films on the subject. What is clear is that, it forms a major component of Texas history. In Stephen Harrigan’s THE GATES OF THE ALAMO we are presented with a new approach to the story through the eyes of fictional characters; Edmund McGowan, a loner dedicated to botanical ...more
Anthony Whitt
Mar 23, 2015 Anthony Whitt rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This novel ranks as one of my all time favorite works of historical fiction. Harrigan spins an interesting tale of ordinary folks caught up in the dynamics of history in the making. Authentic characters grow and transform to survive the tumultuous environment created by the struggle for Texas independence. The final battle scene at the Alamo is one of the best written and historically accurate accounts of the ultimate sacrifice made by men from both sides of the conflict. If you are a fan of det ...more
Shawn
Aug 16, 2015 Shawn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the first Stephen Harrigan novel I have read. The Texan characters in this book were not what I expected, and that was a plus. I found it interesting that the author chose to write many of the personality traits we associate with the heroes of the Alamo, not as positive attributes, but as defects. Rather than presenting William Travis as a idealistic patriot, he is shown to be a verbose zealot who was reckless with the lives of others. Jim Bowie's courage is shown as cruelty. Sam Houston ...more
rinabeana
Jan 05, 2008 rinabeana rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What happened at the Alamo is no secret and, living in Texas as I do, the legends of Travis, Bowie, Crockett, and Houston are daily evidenced. I've been to museums and read books on the subject. One would think I was reasonably well-informed about the Alamo, but while reading this book, I soon came to see that I had no idea of the reality of what happened. I knew virtually nothing about Bowie or Travis, who are revered as gods in these parts. While I realize this book is fictional, I found it to ...more
Kevin Symmons
Nov 07, 2013 Kevin Symmons rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have read many works on the battle of the Alamo...some intellectual and crammed with facts, others packed with adventure. Until reading Mr. Harrigan's novel I had never read anything that combined the adventure and history so completely. I will not bore the reader by repeating the story which most American's are well acquainted with. I can only tell the reader that he has integrated the story of three fictitious individuals caught up by circumstance if the saga. Harrigan's story covers several ...more
Vicki
Sep 02, 2008 Vicki rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Military history / history buffs; fans of the mythical American West
What I love about this book is how Harrigan goes out of his way to show that the instigators of the Texas Revolution were a bunch of drunks, liars, and rabble-rousers with no justification for agitating for war. He follows the stories of two officers in the Mexican Army, and details their travails as pawns in a war that was imposed on them as surely as it was on the average Texan settler. He describes the senseless carnage and brutality wrought by self-important and stubborn men, not in service ...more
Michael
Sep 19, 2008 Michael rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As an Alamo fanatic, I've read just about everything ever written about the siege of the Alamo. Stephen Harrigans novel outshines every other tome on the subject. His historical research is dead on and his characterizations are great. He creates people you care about.
Jason
Aug 15, 2007 Jason rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: History/TX Buffs
Shelves: favorites
This is fiction, but it's a fabulous view of the leadup and execution of the Texas Revolution. The three central characters are completely fictional, but most everyone else is a true historical Texas figure, painted in incredible detail and probably a great deal more true to life than the overblown images we usually have of the heroes we've named every junior high in the state after. Sam Houston is a pompous egomaniac who wants his own country to reign over, though he earns his stripes with his ...more
Celia
Jul 14, 2008 Celia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting take on a historical event which is very well known. This explores a little more of what happened in the build-up to the siege itself and the aftermath at the Goliad (the "other" Alamo) as well as offering a sympathetic look at a broad range of characters. Some other reviewers have pointed out that the last few chapters seem hurried- which they are, as if the author realized that he had got to a certain number of words and then needed to wrap it all up - and the framing device set ...more
Linda
Aug 25, 2012 Linda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I did lots of complaining to anyone who would listen about this book club book. I said things like it has too many characters, it is a slow go, it needs editing, and there is too much fighting. And I was quite certain this was a 3 star book for me. But, after finishing it, I am saying that this is a 4 star book because of the courage, tenacity, and bravery of the men who fought at the Alamo. You know the ones I am talking about: Jim Bowie, Davy Crockett, and William Travis. I am proud to be a Te ...more
Dave
Mar 02, 2017 Dave rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It took me a long time to finish this book, but not because I didnt like it - I got distracted from reading for a while and had been checking this book out from the library -both things conspired against me finishing this earlier.

Overall I enjoyed the book as it is well written and had interesting story arcs throughout. I did feel the middle fourth was a bit slow or dragged on, but that was more to me being impatient for the battle to start.

The last quarter of the book flew by and kept my inte
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Charles Moody
Writing historical fiction about the events at the Alamo presents several tricky challenges. Do you puncture cherished myths about icons like William Travis and Davy Crockett? Can you create drama when readers already know the outcome?

Stephen Harrigan faces these challenges in The Gates of the Alamo, and generally succeeds. The historical figures (Travis, Crockett, Bowie, Santa Anna) are secondary characters in the story, but are skillfully realized. The descriptions of Texas nature are beautif
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David Elkin
Sep 23, 2016 David Elkin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A superb volume of historical fiction. It has won much praise and it earns it many times over. The history is very good, as is the prose. The characters (fictional) covered in the volume become alive and you want to see them make it through. No spoilers from me, you need to read this book if you enjoy great historical fiction.
Riley Gardner
Jul 30, 2013 Riley Gardner rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Historical lovers, dramatic lovers, character-based lovers, western lovers
Gates of the Alamo by Stephen Harrigan is much more than a well written historical novel, more than a well written fiction novel, and more than simply a well written novel. Gates is a masterpiece of literature, which is shameful considering it probably will never be seen as such (though it does save us from possible horrific movie adaptations, so there's always that).

With such a large cast and dense subject matter, it seems like a near impossible feat was reached. Focusing primarily on the the w
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John Kenny
Mar 23, 2012 John Kenny rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
As you will guess from the title, The Gates of the Alamo is about the famous siege of the Alamo in 1836. There have been numerous books and a couple of movies dedicated to this pivotal moment in US and Mexican history and the event is ingrained in the popular consciousness of most Americans. Most people will be familiar with the event itself, but many may not know much about the events leading up to the siege or the aftermath. This major piece of historical fiction focuses on all of this, and th ...more
Marvin
Aug 11, 2009 Marvin rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A long & remarkably slow-moving book for such a traditionally heroic story. Of course, in today's context it's no longer a heroic story but one that ultimately (when it finally gets to the climactic battle) reflects the brutality & futility of the struggle. It takes the author almost half of the nearly 600-page book to introduce all of the main characters from whose various perspectives the story is told, and all of those main characters are fictional--a widowed Texas hotelkeeper & h ...more
Marguerite
Really interesting, and well-paced for a long book, despite the huge cast of characters. The shifting viewpoints (Texas settlers, Mexican nationalists, native Americans, indigenous Mexicans, American slaves) provides a well-rounded picture. There's enough real history here to make it educational. The fictional characters and story are worthwhile, too.
Staci
Feb 24, 2013 Staci rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Why do I break my own rule and allow myself to listen to abridged audiobooks?? Never again.

I'm not sure about my star rating, because I only listened to half of this book. My guess is that the full, unabridged version is better than what I listened to.

My idea - get a little Texas history mixed with some historical fiction. All of the names I expected were there - Austin, Travis, Crockett, Houston, Bowie, etc. But I could not tell you who is who. The abridged version of this book mangles the pers
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Paul Haspel
Jul 25, 2011 Paul Haspel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Gates of the Alamo is a historical novel, and yet for many readers it may do more than a history book to bring to life the events of the Texas Revolution. Novelist Stephen Harrigan creates three well-drawn fictional main characters -- the ambitious and reserved naturalist Edmund McGowan, a brave and resourceful widow named Mary Mott, and her sixteen-year-old son Terrell -- and describes the path that leads them to the besieged Alamo. There, we see through these characters' eyes historical fi ...more
Ben
May 23, 2010 Ben rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fun and informative historical fiction that considers that other Thermopylae - the Alamo - from a number of novel perspectives. A large cast of characters that includes most notably botanist, a cartographer, and a Yucatan bruja rub elbows with the likes of Jim Bowie, William Travis, Davie Crockett, Stephen Austin, and even old Santy Anny himself. As he admits in his afterword, Stephen Harrigan has taken great pains to weave his fiction within the framework of verifiable events, maintaining a c ...more
Mike Wigal
Feb 19, 2015 Mike Wigal rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book. Instead of the mythic heroism and high minded-ness typically portrayed of the defenders inside the Alamo, we get a look into their lesser natures. The land grabbing, slavery extending piracy of Jim Bowie and Sam Houston et al are usually not acknowledged in popular lore, especially in Texas. Davy Crockett comes off in a better light. The true particulars of his death probably falls somewhere between John Wayne swinging his Kentucky long rifle at the Mexican troops fro ...more
Wendy
Feb 07, 2011 Wendy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Glad that's over...overall I decided to give this book only 3 stars, mainly because it was not a page-turner for me.

It started off pretty well, though early on I was inspired to to take on a little side reading - basically some biographical summaries of the main historical characters so that I could get a good feel for how much of this author's take was history vs fiction. The novel did give me the history lesson I was seeking, but I am left wondering how many details are part of the author's op
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Virginia Myers

Well I like historical fiction and I saw this book on someone's list of recommended books and so I bought a used copy on Amazon.com. Boy! was I surprised when I saw how large it was - almost as big as the state of Texas! I do my reading in bed before I go to sleep - and this book is a challenge to hold and read lying down. On top of that, it is going a little slow.

I just scanned through the previous reviews and was totally amazed at number of men that wrote reviews as compared to the women. In
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Sarah
I would have never read this book if it weren’t for the One Book One San Antonio initiative. Am I glad I read it? Not really. Did I hate it? Not really. There were many parts of this book that I enjoyed much more than I thought I would. Clocking in at over 700 pages, it did slow down my reading time table and it will never make a best of list, but I maybe learned a little bit. I could have done without the parts where people’s faces were blown straight out the back of their heads, and I wouldn’t ...more
Connie
Jan 17, 2012 Connie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
While I am not a fan of books that focus on wars with all of the horrible details, I enjoyed the Gates of the Alamo very much. The author indicates that the factual details of this era were scrupously researched and can be trusted to be accurate. I did not enjoy the battle scenes but very much enjoyed reading about the political events and personalities. The fiction aspect made the work much more "readable" for me.

I moved to Texas as a young adult and consequently, I was not immersed in the hist
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Ben
Feb 17, 2015 Ben rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A sprawling historical epic about a conflict that, other than the 2004 film flop, has received relatively little treatment in popular media. The author deftly intermingles real and fictional characters and manages to give humanity and humility to all of them (William Travis, the nitpicking young colonel with a chip on his shoulder; the crusty but lovable drunks, Jim Bowie and Sam Houston; the old hand diplomat Davy Crockett; and Santa Anna, the mercurial rebel general who dreams of being a chewi ...more
Christina
Jul 08, 2012 Christina rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This novel was well written, and presented many different view points of Texas' struggle for independence from Mexico. Some characters featured were a widowed innkeeper with a fighting spirit and her son who was coming of age during the struggle, a naturalist from the US employed by Mexico to help study the chicle plant, of chic-let fame, a mapmaker for the Mexican army, and the famous fighters such as James Bowie, Santa Anna, and Davy Crockett. There were a lot of quirky side stories which adde ...more
Barbara Brannon
Sep 30, 2014 Barbara Brannon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have learned as much about Texas from well-wrought novels as I have from narrative histories, but Stephen Harrigan so expertly integrates his fictional characters into the familiar story of the Texas Revolution it's hard to tell his creations from the real players. And that makes his telling all the more appealing. The Gates of the Alamo takes us inside the minds of both the Texians and the Mexicans, and those who chose neither side, in a riveting adventure that makes us forget we already know ...more
Debbie Howell
May 08, 2009 Debbie Howell rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A big story, well told, and by the author's account, well-researched. Strong characters, strong but unconventional love story subplot, and Harrigan did well with telling the story using various perspectives, from Mexican officers, to a teenage settler and his mother, to an American botanist who just wanted to be left alone to examine the Texas wildflowers. I liked this book and its themes of flawed heroes, the elusiveness of honor, and the difficulties of saying what we wish we could say to thos ...more
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Stephen Harrigan was born in Oklahoma City in 1948 and has lived in Texas since the age of five, growing up in Abilene and Corpus Christi.He is a longtime writer for Texas Monthly, and his articles and essays have appeared in a wide range of other publications as well, including The Atlantic, Outside, The New York Times Magazine, Conde Nast Traveler, Audubon, Travel Holiday, Life, American History ...more
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