The Secession is worth reading for the golf scenes, with President Obama whistling low as President Perry banks a shot off a tree. And there’s a lot of science fiction—with the Perry administration geo-engineering a vast casino-resort strip off the Gulf Coast, and building an elevated, over-water, high-speed rail line direct to the French Quarter in New Orleans. These initiatives cost scratch money after Texan scientists discover an oil well capable of producing 80 billion barrels of oil–a find so great that Perry even kicks around the idea of an Alaska-style (i.e., socialist) permanent dividend fund.
But any reader who is not Rick Perry will find this book drier than San Angelo sand. There’s an assassination attempt, sure, but it’s over in three pages. That plot isn’t the work of President Obama—who is limited in this novel to authorizing the Keystone pipeline (which benefits only the nations of Canada and Texas). The Dallas Cowboys even strike a deal to continue playing in the NFC East. The Secession is a tale of hope and change, told speech by droning speech—a story fit for a teleprompter.
Skeptics of Yglesias’ peaceful transition will prefer Lone Star Daybreak by Erik L. Larson. In this novel, there’s much more at stake than Yellow Rose’s social agitas or The Secession’s Perry party. By this book’s version of 2012, the euro is done for, Mexico is more cartel than state, and al-Qaida is back and bigger than ever. Accordingly, and well before the voters of Texas approve a secession charter (which happens by Page 123, quite late as these books go), the state pre-emptively acquires a military.
One reason that Texas secession is so appealing as political alt-history to Michigan pastors is that Texas offers such a stark relief to the blue states and their enclaves of power. Rural expanse vs. urban density, freedom vs. nanny statism, bolo ties vs. silk cravats. But if it’s under-regulation and vast stretches of nada that you crave, you can do still better than Texas—perhaps that’s why so much of Larson’s book takes place in Siberia. Early into Lone Star Daybreak, Texas cabalists trek to the Kremlin and back, spending billions of unaccounted-for dollars on more than 1,000 Russian aircraft. Boatloads (literal boatloads, they arrive by boat) of SU-37s, SU-30s, and SU-34s; several hundred MiG-29 “X” fighters; a few dozen crucial Backfire bombers. The Texas Defense Force recruits teens from places like Allentown, Pa., then ships them off for pilot training somewhere between Novosibirsk and the Bering Strait. Definitely what those Texan founding fathers had in mind. Pomnitye Alamo!
No one bats an eye when Texas nationalists start building brick-and-mortar recruiting stations in Ohio (not even Ohioans). During one West Wing briefing, National Security Council brass—a truly clueless bunch of Aggies—explain how ultra-large carriers manage to unload tanks at ports all along the Texas Gulf Coast by simply flouting a standard customs procedure. Helicopters arrive in Texas by hugging the Rockies, exploiting a radar blind spot. All the while, the feds are oblivious: no drones, no NSA wiretaps, no embargo.
When push comes to shove (and in this telling, Texas draws first blood), the U.S. performs admirably enough. “Operation Gulf Shield” is an early success. In fact, the States are only thwarted when Texas unleashes a chemical nerve agent outside of Galveston. (To be fair, Galveston is already pretty gross.)
Ultimately, U.S. forces are demoralized after Texas deploys the nuclear option—the literal nuclear option—in high altitude over Fort Pulaski National Monument off the Georgia coast. Spoiler alert: Total war is averted in the end, because U.S. President Wilton is assassinated by the underage intern with whom he has been having an affair.
Only Vladimir Putin will like the novel well enough to get to the penultimate scene, in which Texas calls off a nuclear strike on Times Square, with jets making a pass around the new Freedom Tower in Lower Manhattan. At Lonestar Daybreak’s end, Texas doesn’t much resemble that friendly state that Bowie died (of the flu) defending. The teen Pennsylvania pilot has no choice but to fly Russo-Texan fighter jets after recruiters blackmail her with the promise of health care for her cancer-stricken mother. (Mom dies anyway.) In the darkest scene of a novel that shows Texans committing war crimes, an Ohio man shoots dead a young black man as he pulls a cellphone from his pocket during a riot.
Of course, this is appalling. It is also an aggrieved white male fantasy that is increasingly out of touch with reality. What Larson and the authors of Yellow Rose and The Secession never grapple with is the fact that this Texas they are willing to die for—or pine for, in the case of confederate-carpetbaggers from Michigan—this Texas is already slipping away from them. Texas State Sen. Wendy Davis’s Mizuno Women’s Wave Rider 16 trainers aren’t exactly the Bowie knife, but she has nevertheless managed to strike a dagger into Texas politics. Today she leads an actually-persecuted, freedom-loving caste of Texans. Texans who stand unified against a black-hatted villain in Gov. Rick Perry. Texans who face long odds. (Looong odds.)
But that’s how the classic stories of Texas revolution go. And if demographics mean destiny, then the Texas revolution is already in progress. I can’t wait to tell my grandkids the tale.
The Yellow Rose of Texas by Dennis Snyder. Concerned Life Publishing.
The Secession of Texas by Darrell Maloney. Self-published.
Lone Star Daybreak by Erik L. Larson. Tate Publishing.