Not Between Brothers

Not Between Brothers
Boaz/Ten Speed Press, 1996
Signet/Penguin Group USA, 1998

Not Between Brothers: 15th Anniversary Edition
Boaz Corporation, 2010

Winner – 1997 Violet Crown Fiction Award
Finalist
– 1996 Spur Award – Best Novel of the West
Editor’s Choice
– Review of Texas Books

Critical Praise for Not Between Brothers

With over 100,000 copies sold of the novel’s first three editions, Not Between Brothers continues to be a strong regional title after over thirteen years in print. As of the first of April 2009 only a dozen copies of NBB remain in stock. After they are sold, the novel will be out of print until March or April of 2010, when Boaz Publications will release its Fifteenth Anniversary edition. This new printing will include both hardcover and trade paper editions with new cover art and an updated foreword and acknowledgments.

Front Street Books in Alpine, Texas maintains a small inventory of new and used copies, including signed, first edition hardcover copies that have become exceedingly rare.

The Audio version of Not Between Brothers can be found here.

Afterword to the 15th Anniversary Edition of Not Between Brothers

Can it be that he was there before he could have been there?

It seems that way when I try to recall David Wilkinson’s first appearance in my life. Simple arithmetic insists that he was too young to have enrolled in any of my initial classes at the University of Texas or that he could have made his way into my campus office during those early semesters.

But in the fog of retrospect it seems that David was already there, awaiting me, from the very outset of my arrival at the University.

Maybe this is not mine but David’s memory, a figment of his imagination, where I play a destined small part in one of his many stories.

Ah, memory — a trickster akin to a fiction writer. Like good storytelling, though, memory can reflect some kind of truth through a glass darkly.

Whenever it started, one day David appeared and didn’t disappear, as students are wont to do. Then there were stacks of book-length manuscripts — many over the years and always high enough to be measured by a ruler.

The role for me in David’s story was to take the measure of these stacks and report. It was a minor part for an expendable character, useful at best to slightly facilitate a plot.

The plot was the unfolding of David’s career as a writer. And what a story that would become, highlighted by rave reviews and multiple awards.

But the narrative sweep, precise pacing, compelling characters and eloquent prose of his fiction mask a hidden back-story — David’s countless hours of anxious authorial labor exerted nonstop over an entire adult lifetime.

Behind the scenes of his elegant work is an artist who diligently researches historical contexts with scholarly rigor.

Behind the scenes of his elegant work is an artist who writes, revises and rewrites yet again until his narrative seems as natural as daylight.

Behind the scenes of his elegant work is an artist who endures and prevails against the grinding ups-and-downs of marketing economics.

Behind the scenes of his elegant work is an artist with an unrelenting passion for exploring his innate talent for storytelling.

To know David is to be intimidated by that passion.

It’s easy to overlook all that has happened behind each of David’s stunning books. But it’s hard to miss his insight into history and life, so deeply embedded in his stories.

Not Between Brothers displays an author who prizes earnest work and who won’t settle for less than his own best effort. The personal and cultural conflicts dramatized in the novel also reveal an author who refuses to settle for simple answers concerning history or human experience. In David’s books it is always less a question of who was right and who was wrong in how circumstances eventuated over time, than it is a matter of life’s enigmatic course in general, particularly the ironic and tragic human toll of its capricious unfolding.

In Not Between Brothers “I wanted to catch that period when everything was up in the air,” David has aptly said, “a time when it could have gone either way.” The people in this novel, set in Texas between the 1820s and the 1860s, may envision themselves as self-determining, but David’s readers see them also as unwitting pawns of impersonal forces outside their control or imagination. “The more I learned about it,” David added during an interview, “the more I saw the tragedy of it — the people who suffered during those times, how lucky the people were who did well.”

So the two principal players in Not Between Brothers — Remy Fuqua and Kills White Bear — enact David’s vision of the ironic and tragic toll time exacts from every generation. When David once mentioned that in this novel “all I had to do was inject a character close to my heart into the circumstances of the early nineteenth century,” he meant both Remy Fuqua and Kills White Bear as the protagonists particularly close to his heart.

These two men are like mirror images of each other — something they can’t quite discern even when looking directly at one another as through a glass darkly. What emerge between them are curious life-staging effects, such as this moment pertinently occurring about midway in the novel: “My spirit guide warned me not to befriend a white man,” Kills White Bear says to Maguara, his Comanche chief. “Had I been true to my vision, I should have killed Fuqua.” The chief, in turn, mirror-reverses the scene: “The crows say he should’ve killed you.”

A poignant parallelism between Kills White Bear and Remy Fuqua informs the novel at every level and is encapsulated in the phrase “not between brothers.” Like so much else in David’s representation of mystifying life in this novel, the doubled mirror-work of the very title of his book is at once false and true.

Even so, like most of us, Remy keeps seeking a simpler, clearer and more propitious perspective. “Life was the miracle,” he wants to believe.

But the fictional/historical places Remy inhabits offer only stony miracles at best. They are places where the word “hope” crops up but functions like a moisture pebble in a mouth. The hope Remy tries to muster always necessarily remains a hardscrabble longing.

This worry-bead of hope, plied against the odds, is what the author behind the scenes tightly fingers and holds close to his heart.

– William J. Scheick, Ph.D. – J.R. Millikan Centennial Professor of American Literature, University of Texas at Austin

Author’s Comments on the Boaz Editions of Not Between Brothers

Two years have passed since Not Between Brothers first appeared in hardcover. Though written by an obscure writer, published by burgeoning independent press, and principally classified by the industry as a work of “regional” interest, the novel was fortunate enough to meet by and large with critical success, garnered awards distinction, and, strangest of all, was optioned to NBC/Kevin Costner’s Tig Productions for an upcoming tv mini-series. That’s some ride for my little novel, and it’s not over yet. Next spring, Penguin Putnam’s Signet imprint will release its mass market edition, exposing the novel for the first time to a national audience. I’d like to believe that all of these things reflect the inherent quality of the book, but in my heart I know I couldn’t have been luckier. I owe a great many for the success of this title (see its “acknowledgments” section for a comprehensive list). I thank you all.

If I were to sit before you, a potential reader, and be asked to tell you something about this book, I would begin by explaining that I read sixty non-fiction, historical and primary source works in order to write my own. I strove for historical accuracy first and foremost. I am likewise the progeny of Scotch-Irish pioneers, my ancestors being some of the first white immigrants to arrive in southwest Arkansas. I left five generations behind in that stubborn red clay. They were working people–farmers and ranchers mostly–and my sisters and I were the first generation to be raised in a town of any sort. I’m proud of my heritage, and I’m certain my characters reflect this trait, especially the Anglo protagonist, Remy Fuqua, who shares my mix of European blood. For all that, I’d like the reader to understand that I resisted the temptation to romanticize these people. They, along with the Hispanic and American Indian characters in the book, are presented warts and all. Each representative culture had great strengths and crippling weaknesses, and once they came face to face for the first time on the Mexican/Texas frontier, a great tragedy unfolded. This tragedy forms the heart of Not Between Brothers, and is why the novel transcends its regional setting. For me, the story is a look back at a young America before her bloody boundaries were drawn.

One respected critic termed the novel “revisionist”–a retelling, if you will, of an old story with a modern voice. It’s nothing of the sort. It seems to me unfair to judge these people by contemporary standards of ethics, customs, and morality. These rules were unwritten as our story begins, and so I chose to focus more on their hopes, aspirations, and most of all, their hunger for a place of their own, as they stomped through historical events of sweeping importance and drastic change. We encounter the Texas frontier through their eyes–see what they saw; endure what they endured; dream what they dreamed. As the author, I tried hardest not to form judgments. The intent was for the reader to see how things were, and then judge for him or herself. A reader’s task, then, is to make sense of the world our ancestors inherited; take pride in their character and courage, and forgive them for their faults.

I admit I sometimes intruded in the narrative, particularly in the sections dealing with the legacy of the Spanish, Hispanic ranching practices, the ancestry of wild mustangs and longhorn cattle, the history of the great Comanche nation, and the waves of European immigration to the new world. I knew this was a flawed approach for a novel, a departure from convention (and I certainly heard about it in a review or two), but I did it anyway because I felt these things were essential to allow a reader to understand fully what happened a hundred and fifty years ago in Texas. I was extremely fortunate that I found a publisher who shared my vision and assumed the risk of publication, and never once troubled me about the novel’s length. He felt, as I did, that the story had importance beyond assuring its success as mainstream fiction. We wanted American readers to see with fresh eyes who we were and where we came from–to assess where we’ve been while we look ahead to where we must go. As a nation, we are still today reeling from this era’s racial and cultural disasters. And yet all of us–Anglo, Hispanic and American Indian–are still here, still striving, still learning to live with one another. This is the underlying message of Not Between Brothers, that we have far more in common than we ever realized, and that the tragic history we share was, from the beginning, a feud between brothers who failed to recognize one another. Above all, the novel is an American story of determination, healing, and hope against all obstacles and all odds.

The author, David Marion Wilkinson, November 4, 1998

Critical Praise for Not Between Brothers

“Spanning three decades in the early years of the independent Republic of Texas, this well-crafted, gripping first novel portrays three cultures—Mexican, white immigrant, and Comanche—in bloody collision…Wilkinson is a gifted storyteller who brings Texas history to life with a tale rich in adventure and high emotions.”
Publishers Weekly

“This is simply the best historical novel about Texas published in more than a decade. Author D. Marion Wilkinson studied a tremendous amount of reputable primary and secondary sources and then fashioned a thrilling epic around them…Wilkinson’s ability to sustain suspense over more than six hundred pages is a testament to his narrative skills while working with so many fictional and real characters and events…This book should be a popular choice for public and college libraries and rank as one of the top novels depicting Texas’ past. Wilkinson is a novelist to congratulate and to watch.”
Sally Dooley, Editor – Review of Texas Books

“This historically rich yet imaginative tale of Texas from the 1820s to the 1860s starts off strong and gets stronger…Wilkinson provides a balanced portrait of a young state and the people who shaped its destiny…In addition to tons of factual information on Texas’ early years and the men and women who excelled here—Stephen Austin, Sam Houston, Juan Seguin, a parade of strong female characters—Wilkinson offers insight into the Tejano and American Indian cultures and the events that changed them…[The author] also provides a fair share of romance, nicely spun out between characters the reader learns to cheer for.”
Judyth Rigler, Book Editor – San Antonio Express-News

“Wilkinson’s novel crackles with his high energy and love of story.”
Sandra Scofield

Not Between Brothers presents a balanced and very human view of Texas history, the tragic clash of cultures so different from one another that conflict was inevitable no matter how desperately some might have wished for peace. Though the story is about Texas, the same cultural battles continue to be a blight on mankind today, the world over.”
Elmer Kelton

“It is both the best-researched fictions readers are likely to find on some complicated subjects and a rattling good story about well-drawn characters living in perilous times…In addition to his achievement in clarifying the ethnic forces at work in colonial Texas, Wilkinson also excels at explaining the politics of the republic and the years of early statehood as well as the implacable hostility between the Scotch-Irish and the Indians—particularly the Comanche—in pioneer Texas. Fiction has rarely succeeded in making sense of the many pieces of the Texas revolutionary picture. Not Between Brothers puts events in perspective…[The author] has created a memorable gallery of characters to join his main protagonists in a novel which, for once, seems to justify the description, ‘big as Texas.'”
Mary Kate Tripp, Book Editor – Amarillo Globe-News

“Remy’s tale…is that of all dreamers, misfits, heroes, and ne’er do wells who found a place in Texas and fought to keep it. Remy’s counterpart is the young Comanche warrior, Kills White Bear, who finds his destiny as the novel begins and spends his life in the heroic but doomed pursuit of his people’s rightful place on the frontier.”
Ft. Worth Star-Telegram

“I say move over James Michener. Wilkinson’s smooth flow of words never tempts a reader to skip or scan; there is nothing extraneous and every word counts…the reader is reminded of school days when Texas history was taught before political correctness…Not Between Brothers will surely be made into a movie or television epic excelling Giant, Lone Star, or Texas. I’m glad I read the book before seeing the movie, and you will be, too. It is a story too good to wait.”
Dorothy Kerbow, Book Editor – Wimberley Valley News

“An epic, sprawling page-turner that’s as big as the Lone Star State…wonderfully written…a great read…a great book.”
Studio Tulsa KWGS FM 89.5

“…Not Between Brothers is a page-turner. Its detail, historical accuracy, and fast-moving dialogue is an exciting edition to the growing collection of Texas-in-the-making novels.”
Liz Carpenter

“…I found [Not Between Brothers] fascinating. The author especially shines in his detailed knowledge of Tejano and Native American Cultures. Readers will learn a great deal from this book while enjoying every word.”
William H. Goetzmann – Pulitzer Prize-winning Author

“…Wilkinson has done honor to his sources…This novel should be commended for its industry, energy, and understanding of the clash of three cultures.”
Don Graham – The Austin American-Statesman