... densely researched ... At more than 400 pages, backed by 34 pages of single-spaced footnotes, Cult of Glory will likely withstand challenges to its accuracy ... Its tone is matter-of-fact, and Swanson does not make the mistake of imposing contemporary values on bygone days. He does, however, meticulously fill in the historical voids and correct the misrepresentations...And for any student of Texas history, the book is a treasure, on several levels. First, it is a fascinating historical narrative, packed with colorful episodes and outsize characters including Ranger legends like Jack Hays, Sam Walker, Bigfoot Wallace and Alfred Allee...And, whatever their faults, the Rangers were often a wild and daring bunch, which sometimes left a strong impression on observers ... Perhaps more important, the book is also a critical retelling of Texas history as seen through a different lens. And in setting the record straight about the Texas Rangers, Swanson clarifies and enriches the remarkable story of Texas for everyone.
Though well-written, Cult of Glory isn’t a book for the fainthearted. Swanson, a prodigious researcher, recounts how in their nearly 200-year “attention-grubbing” history Rangers burned peasant villages, slaughtered innocents, busted unions and committed war crimes ... Swanson portrays the 19th-century Rangers as a paramilitary squad, proudly waving the banner of white supremacy. Nevertheless, he also dutifully recounts the bravery of the scouts John 'Coffee' Hays and Sam Walker during the Mexican-American War in protecting American supply trains from attacks by Mexican guerrillas ... While Swanson ably deals with botched Rangers work like the 1980s investigation of the serial murderer Henry Lee Lucas, the most gripping drama of Cult of Glory is found in the early chapters.
Swanson is adept at holding readers’ interest in a sweeping narrative, all the while allowing a nuanced understanding of these myths. The book loses some momentum in the final chapters in telling 20th-century history; by then the myths were ingrained in public imagination ... In an era in which some desire a return to a perceived greatness, books like this remind us greatness is often reliant on the selective memory of storytellers.