All but one of my historical novels are loosely connected, linked by a many-branched family tree: two German families who arrived in Texas in the late 1840s through the Adelsverein consortium, another family of mostly German descent who had long been residents of Pennsylvania before migrating to Texas in response to Stephen Austin’s invitation to settlers, and a fourth family of well-to-do Bostonians — who nonetheless, also have a connection to Texas. The historical period ranges from the 1820s, up to World War Two. Those novels can be described as a family saga, in that characters appear in various books and not always as a main character. The Adelsverein Trilogy, and the books which share the same four family trees span the years between 1825 and 1946.  This is the chronological order, for those readers who do want to read them that way:

Daughter of Texas: Begins in 1825 with the Becker family arriving in Texas: Margaret, her brothers Rudi and Carl, her parents Alois and Maria, telling of early days in San Felipe-on-the-Brazos, and Gonzales, Margaret’s marriage to school-teacher, Horace “Race” Vining, events leading to the War for Independence, the Runaway Scrape and the battle of San Jacinto, of Margaret’s life in Austin and the death of her husband, under circumstances which set up plot elements of Sunset and Steel Rails 45 years later. Besides Margaret, her brother Carl and her son Peter Vining as an infant, this book introduces the characters of Daddy Hurst, sisters Hetty and Morag Moylan, carpenter and part-time soldier Seamus O’Doyle and Dr. Henry Williamson. Sam Houston, Harry Karnes, James Bowie, William B. Travis, Susannah Dickinson and her daughter, members of the Gonzales Ranging company who went to the relief of the Alamo, Deaf Smith, Mirabeau B. Lamar, and Angelina Eberly are historic figures who appear.

Deep in the Heart: This book runs from 1841 to 1847, overlapping some events in Adelsverein: The Gathering. A “bookend” introduction and afterward is set in 1865, as the Civil War ends, with the main story following Margaret, her sons and her friends: a widow running a boarding-house in Austin catering to members of the legislature. Her brother Carl is one of Jack Hays’ Rangers, fighting Comanche war parties in the unsettled Hill Country, the invading Mexican army at the Salado Creek fight, and barely surviving the Battle of Monterrey during the Mexican-American War. The book concludes with Margaret’s second marriage. Historical figures include Sam and Margaret Houston, Angelina Eberly, Jack Hays and many real-life residents of contemporary Austin.

 Adelsverein: The Gathering runs from 1844 to 1849. Carl Becker is a major character here; Margaret makes a brief appearance. This deals with the recruitment and emigration of German settlers by the Mainzer Adelsverein, represented by the Steinmetz and Richter families: Christian Steinmetz, wife Hannah, step-daughter Magda Vogel, sons Johann and Friedrich “Fredi” and his daughter Liesel, who is married to Hans “Hansi” Richter and has two children with him; Anna and baby Joachim. The story follows their journey from Germany to Texas. The Steinmetz and Richter families are fictional, but most of their neighbors are historical figures, including John Meusebach, C.H. “Charley” Nimitz, Prince Karl of Solms-Braunfels appears, Jack Hays, Indian agent Robert Neighbors, Samuel Maverick, his wife and their household. Porfirio Menchaca, who appears towards the end, is the son of a friend of Horace Vining’s, mentioned in Daughter of Texas. Porfirio appears as a character in the subsequent books.

The Golden Road: Follows teenaged Friedrich “Fredi” Steinmetz to the gold fields of California during 1855-59. It was mentioned in later books that Fredi followed the Gold Rush without any particular success. Fredi works as a cattle drover, freight hauler, saloon dishwasher, street newspaper vendor, express mail rider and bodyguard/stagehand for Lotta Crabtree, as she and her mother tour the gold mines. He does pan gold, in company with a mysterious Irishman, Polydore O’Malley, who may be wanted in England for an attempt on the life of Queen Victoria. O’Malley is fictional, but Fredi does encounter a number of historical characters, some before they became notable including Sally Skull, Jack Slade, Charles Goodnight, Roy Bean, Juaquin Murrietta, Charley Parkhurst, William T. Sherman, Mary Ellen Pleasant, Old Virginny Finney, Lotta Crabtree, and Ulysses S. Grant.

Adelsverein: The Sowing. This deals with the Civil War, following the lives of Carl and Magda Becker and their family, Hansi and Liesel Richter and their children during that time. The story ends with the wedding of Magda and Liesel’s adopted sister Rosalie to a returning Confederate soldier at the end of the war. There are a pair of brief “bookends” – opening and closing the book, set around 1910 with the aged Magda telling several of her grandchildren and greatgrandchildren of what happened during the war. Magda’s brothers Johann and Fredi appear briefly, as does Porfirio Menchaca. Historical characters appearing in this book include (again) Jack Hays, Dr. Ferdinand Herff of San Antonio, Dr.Wilhelm Keidel of Fredericksburg, and a leader of the notorious “hanging band”, J.P. Waldrip.

 Adelsverein: The Harvesting – This book picks up at the end of the Civil War, slightly overlapping events in the last chapter of The Sowing. The first chapters deal with the experience of Peter Vining, the youngest son of Margaret and “Race” Vining returning to the family home in Austin. He and the small son of his oldest brother are the only surviving males in the family. His three older brothers died at Gettysburg, he is an amputee – and both Margaret and Dr. Williamson have died also. For lack of a better alternative, he travels to Fredericksburg and takes employment with Hansi Richter, who has gone into the freight hauling and general store business, along with Fredi Steinmetz and Carl Becker’s oldest son, Dolph. The main narrative concludes in 1876, with Magda receiving news that Dolph has courted and married an Englishwoman. During the course of this book, the younger generation moves more to the front and center: Dolph Becker, his younger brother Sam and sister Hannah, Peter Vining, and Hansi Richter’s daughter Anna. Again, there is a ‘bookend’ beginning and ending, set in 1918, with Magda recollecting events for her youngest daughter Lottie, serving as a volunteer nurse at a military hospital during the great influenza pandemic.

The Quivera Trail
: This book slightly overlaps Adelsverein: The Harvesting, beginning in 1875 with Dolph Becker courting Isobel Cary-Groves, a titled English aristocrat with a desperate need to marry. The main narrative follows Isobel and her very young ladies’ maid, Jane Goodacre as they journey to Texas. Alternate chapters deal with their experiences and perceptions as Isobel builds confidence in herself and trust in her husband. Jane, against her own expectations, develops a sense of independence and falls in love. Magda and her daughter Lottie, Hansi and Liesel Richter appear as supporting characters, as do Peter Vining and his wife, Anna Richter. Hetty Moylan and Morag’s daughter Jemima-Mary also appear. Historic characters include John Wesley Hardin, Lizzie Johnson Williams, famous as a woman rancher of the period, and Dr. Herff. The character of cowboy Wash Charpentier, is based on Nate Love, an early rodeo champion – who retired from cowboying to become a Pullman porter. The narrative concludes in the late 1870s, although there is an afterward, set in 1918.

Sunset and Steel Rails: This narrative is divided into three parts, set in 1884, 1890 and 1900, following the experiences of Sophia Brewer, the granddaughter of Horace “Race” Vining by his wife in Boston. Jilted by her fiancée, bullied and exploited by her older brother, Sophia escapes by taking another name and employment as a Harvey Girl. Finding love and happiness at last, Sophia’s family and friends are threatened by the horrific Galveston Hurricane of 1900. Fredi Steinmetz is a major character in this book. Magda Becker, her daughter Lottie and daughters-in-law Isobel and Jane also appear, as do Peter and Anna Vining, Peter’s nephew Horrie, and George Richter – an infant in The Gathering, and a Confederate Army teamster in The Harvesting. Wash Charpentier, the cowboy turned Pullman porter also appears. Historical characters include Fred Harvey himself, his son and business partner David Benjamin, and cowboy-turned Pinkerton detective Charlie Siringo.

My Dear Cousin: A Novel in Letters: This story leaps ahead in time, to WWII, and the experiences of Venetia Stoneman (originally Steinmetz) and Peggy Becker during those years. Venetia (Vennie) is the granddaughter of Sophia and Fredi Steinmetz from Sunset and Steel Rails, serving as a US Army nurse in North Africa, Italy and France. Peggy, granddaughter of Sam and Jane Becker from The Quivera Trail, has married an Englishman who owns a rubber plantation in Malaya. She escapes from Singapore in 1942 with her small son. She waits out the war in Australia, not knowing if her husband – a POW in Japanese hands – is alive or dead.  Historical characters include Admiral Chester Nimitz, Colonel “Pappy” Gunn,  General George Patton, artist and anti-Nazi fighter Rudolph Von Ripper, and Sir Anthony Quayle, in a special guest appearance.

The one novel which has nothing to do with Texas was my very first essay into historical fiction – a retelling of the first wagon train party to California to make it all the way there with their wagons. To Truckee’s Trail is based on the experiences of the Stevens-Townsend-Murphy party of 1844, who two years before Donner-Reed Party met with disaster in the very same mountain pass, still made it through to California with two more than they started with.