Review: Just One Riot, Ben Proctor

Rating: 4 out of 5

The Texas Rangers are an elite group, and Mr Proctor’s look into the organisation is illuminating. It is not the best history one could endeavour to find, but it has some character, mostly because the author has chosen to focus on a few select Rangers from the 20th century, describing the episodes which built the fame for these guys and leaving most of the rest be. “One riot, one ranger” is the story that gives the book its title, but it’s not the only interesting episode to be described.

I think one of the downsides is that if one expects to learn more about Frank Hamer, this doesn’t really come to pass. Prior reading had brought him out as one of the foremost rangers, but while he was mentioned in this, it wasn’t in great detail. I guess this could be excused: Hamer has his own biography (or several), and bringing the other Rangers to prominence is a good goal on its own. Most of the episodes are non-controversial, but especially the last one—the 1974 attempted breakout from the Huntsville Prison—did not come down to the Rangers. Also, as it was solved by a gun battle on the stairs of the prison, it didn’t really epitomise the qualities the author was highlighting in the other stories which primarily looked into non-violent ways to get justice served (even if violence was a threat).

While not a history of the organisation that covers its doings day-to-day, the person-focussed approach worked as a first look into the Rangers. This allowed the reader to be familiarised with several rangers from different time periods. The author also included a short history that covered their dealings in general from the earliest time up until the 1980’s, but this was not particularly thorough; yet, most of their leading personnel were mentioned in one way or another. The political controversies in the 1930’s looked to be an interesting chapter but weren’t really covered in detail—though that’s because they didn’t fit the format of the rest of it.

Overall, I enjoyed it even if the book was relatively simple in many ways: it was still entertaining and offered a quick glimpse into the fabled organisation.

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