by Landon Wallace
Many historians and Alamo devotees have long speculated that a substantial treasure was buried beneath the Alamo just before the Mexicans laid siege to the mission.
The idea that this treasure still lays hidden somewhere under the fortress some 180 years later intrigued me to do more research. When reading the many detailed accounts of the Alamo battle and the men who died defending it, I was struck by the fact that these deaths left the treasure mystery all but unanswerable. This sole survivor of the battle of the Alamo was a slave named Joe. A modern day descendant of Joe inspired my novel.
The fictional characters in my novel grew out of Joe the slave’s story. Brewton, Alabama, had a prominent role in the real post-Alamo life of Joe and once I’d decided the first hints of the mystery would unfold in that town, I constructed my protagonist, Nat, in and around that environment. His companion in the search for the treasure, Renee, needed a background that lent itself to the pursuit of a mystery as well. Her character evolved from that key consideration.
The other characters in the fictional modern day pursuit of the treasure have a piece or two of their lives connected to real history. For instance, Angelina de Zavala Gentry, a key adversary of Nat and Renee, is a fictional descendant of the real-life Angel of the Alamo, Adina de Zavala.
The historical characters in the story, on the other hand, were heavily researched and their actions follow naturally from the real events that unfolded in their lives. Each of these characters had some possible role in secreting the treasure and protecting it from the Mexican invaders. My goal was to share their thoughts and motivations in doing so.
The Alamo has been written about so many times that the most difficult part of my research was deciding which accounts to rely upon when describing the historical elements of the novel. In the end, I looked to as many source documents as possible, a majority of which were compiled in my most valuable resource—the Alamo Reader by Todd Hansen. Much of the writing about the long-speculated treasure of San Saba (otherwise known as Bowie’s Treasure) could be found in the works of renowned Texas writers like J. Frank Dobie.
The story revolves around the events of March 6, 1836, the date the Mexican army stormed the Alamo and killed every one of the defenders except William Barret Travis's slave Joe. A fearful Joe then escapes in the night while the Mexican army is celebrating, carrying a prize far more valuable than anything inside the creaky Spanish mission.
The present story ramps forward to September 2013.
Joe's modern descendant, a 93-year-old World War II veteran living alone in Brewton, Alabama, is dying after being attacked by intruders. With his last breath, the old man defiantly shouts, "Come and take it!" And with his demise, the last living person who knows about Joe's prize is gone forever. While investigating the old man's death, grandson Nat uncovers clues about a long-hidden secret dating back to the Alamo. With the help of a beautiful history professor named Renee, Nat begins to unravel the mystery of his grandfather's murder, and in the process discovers another mystery of far greater scale.
The great thing about creating characters is that you never know what they might do next. It’s possible that Nat and Renee show up in another mystery in the future. Many unanswered questions remain about Santa Anna’s life even after he was defeated and captured by Sam Houston at the battle of San Jacinto. Maybe Nat and Renee need to figure out why.
I’m a native Texan and trial attorney with a penchant for telling stories inside and outside the courtroom. I currently live in North Texas with my wife, children, and two dogs. Come and Take It is my first novel but I’m busily working on a second with a scheduled publication date in early 2016.