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sam houston


So many people have asked why such a Texas subject was published by the “rival” University of Oklahoma Press, I shall answer this here and in future simply refer people to it: I began this book when I was still working with Doubleday, with whom I had published my first four books. I discussed the possible Sam Houston biography with my editor, submitted the proposal, it went to contract—and then Doubleday was suddenly bought out by Bertelsmann Gesellschafft Verein, the German bank holding conglomerate. Editors hit the sidewalk, including mine, and projects were dropped, including this one.

At about that time, I had a lunch scheduled with John Drayton, then editor-in-chief of the University of Oklahoma Press, about possibly reprinting The Buffalo War. When he found out that the Sam Houston project was available—well, if you’ve ever seen a duck go after a junebug, you can picture the scene. Only later did I learn, as a matter of pure serendipity, that OU Press had already published Bill Seales’ biography of Margaret Houston, the Gregory and Strickland book about Houston’s years with the Cherokees, and would have been the Sam Houston publisher of choice had I gone searching for one. Happy accident.

Originally, the idea was to have the manuscript submitted and the book ready in time for Sam Houston’s 200th birthday in 1993. Again a happy accident intervened: During my research, amazing as it seems, I came across thousands of Sam Houston papers that had never been assayed for use in a biography. I simply could not stick to a methodology and have the book done in time. John Drayton extended my deadline, and as it turned out, five other biographies of Houston appeared and competed with each other, when my own book might have been buried in the pack.

Drayton extended my deadline repeatedly, when he would have been perfectly justified to call in the book or cancel the contract. He was, however, an editor of the old school, a nurturer and a gentleman, and this book’s haul of prizes and reviews are in great part a result of his patience and husbandry. The only difficulty came when I was required to cut the finished manuscript—which admittedly was a monster—to a volume that people could afford to buy, and after having been shown so much consideration I was in no position to refuse.


Publishers Weekly: "Well told and often moving.... a good read, solidly evoking the prickly personality of the first and greatest Texan."

Library Journal: "Using an amazing array of primary sources ... Haley paints a lively picture of a sometimes deeply troubled man....
A refreshing, important look at a weighty yet often overlooked figure in American politics. Ample illustrations and Haley’s easy style make the book accessible to lay readers, while his exhaustive research should appeal to academics."

Houston (TX) Chronicle: "An ambitious and nuanced treatment of a major American figure.... deeply researched and fair-minded.... There is nothing dry or academic about the writing; the book has juice in its veins."

Richmond (VA) Times-Dispatch: "Neither hagiography nor an example of white-male bashing, Haley’s biography will delight not only military buffs, but also those eager for history in all its propaganda-defying complexity."

New York Military Affairs Symposium: "a very solid biography of one of the most complex characters in American history ... an excellent book."

The Book Report: "This is a scholarly work of vast proportion ... a lively, entertaining read. The author has done an exemplary job of capturing the flavor of Houston’s life and times."

Austin (TX) Chronicle: "Haley’s hard work is almost invisible to the reader; he makes this complex life accessible, even understandable. Along the way, he has given the reader not only a painless lesson in Texas history, but a very good review of U.S. history from the Revolutionary War to the beginning of the Civil War."

American History: "Refreshing and insightful."

Amarillo (TX) Globe-News: "Some historical characters are larger than life, and sometimes their biographies measure up to the size of their subjects. That’s what happens in Sam Houston.... a sweeping story that brushes nothing under the rug."


"Sam Houston was one of those figures, like Daniel Boone, whose astonishing life actually matched the legends that have grown around him. This is biography in the grand style—splendidly researched, written with spirit. It is now the beginning point for all future discussion on its subject." (Dr. Elliott West, former president, Western History Association)

"He’s done it. He’s captured Sam Houston better than The Raven ever did." (Hon. William P. Hobby, Jr., former Lieutenant Governor of Texas)

"This may be the best Houston biography of the new (and old) millennium." (Dr. Dorman H. Winfrey, Former Director, Texas State Library and Archives)

"Sam Houston is a beautifully written biography that historians and general readers alike will relish. Using new sources, Haley paints a vivid and dramatic picture that is certain to endure. At long last, we may just have a definitive study." (Dr. Jerry M. Thompson, former president, Texas State Historical Association)

Autographed copies of SAM HOUSTON in trade paperback are available from the author for $25.00, plus $3.00 packaging and postage. Email me at


2003 Texas State Historical Association, Coral Horton Tullis Memorial Prize for best book on Texas in 2002

2003 Western Writers of America Spur Award for best biography on a western subject

2003 Texas Historical Commission, T. R. Fehrenbach Book Award

2003 Texas Historical Foundation, Deolece Parmelee Award for outstanding research in primary sources

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