Because of the Camels
Publisher: SIWA Publishing (2012)
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Because of the Camels is an inspiring story about a little known account of the incredible journey that brought Egyptian camels to rugged Texas in the mid-1800s. This historical novel skillfully weaves more into the story than just a depiction of what happened; it is a story of many cultures, the coming upheaval with the war that changed our nation, and the pioneering of the West and of Texas.

More uniquely interesting was the portrayal of people from two different cultures, East/Islamic and Western/Christian, encountering their societies and customs for the very first time that is enlightening about the isolation of different cultures before the age of television or radio.

Elizabeth McDermott, an up and coming socialite from one of Galveston’s most prominent families has no idea of the grand adventure that awaits her when the camels arrive in port. Nor do the three young men Alex, Nate and Hassan who accompany the camels. Their lives will intersect in ways that none of them could have imagined.

But this is not just Elizabeth’s story, nor is there ultimately one main character; more it is the story of how bringing the camels effected the lives of those half-way around the world, the military men who were in charge of the special mission to procure the animals and then get them back to U.S. for the Army Camel Corps, the brave Egyptian young man who accompanied the camels, the plight of non-whites in ante bellum Texas, and the arrival of German immigrants. Tensions soon mount from the effect of all of these new cultural aspects clashing.

To counterbalance some more of the gritty scenes that are historically accurate of the time, there are also many delightful scenes.  But readers should be aware that the author did not overlook the racism and subjugation of people of color that was prevalent at that time. I felt that her descriptions were so vivid that they truly took you back to Egypt, to the trans-Atlantic sail, to the crushed covered streets of Galveston, to the beautiful colored bays and its abundance of life that surrounded Saluria; to the vast expanse of the prairie grasses in the unsettled lands near San Antonio. Each scene is so well depicted that one effortlessly travels back in time to become part of the adventures told. U.S. history and military buffs will appreciate this well-researched book. Those looking for an antebellum romance will also enjoy reading it.

Not only was I captivated by the imagery the author created, but I was taken away by how well each character in the story was developed. The author developed each and every character so well that you can’t help but feel that you are having tea with Elizabeth, riding the camels with Hassan and Alex, sitting around the campfire listing to the tales spun by the camel men, and rocking on the porch with Jeremy.

The story of the camels’ journey to America and the part they played in American history is one that I found to be most informative and entertaining. Ms. Blair had me turning the pages to find out what will happen to the McDermott family, Hassan and the camel men, Alex and his Uncle Babcock, Nate and his grandfather, as well as the many other characters. This is one story I will not soon forget.

Because of the Camels was awarded the Laramie Awards First Place for Historical Western Novels. The Laramie Awards is a division of Chanticleer Novel Writing Competitions.