Books: Boatman on Horseback

THE KING RANCH (838 pp.)—Tom Lea —Little, Brown ($17.50).

People who come to Texas these days are preachers or fugitives from justice or sons of bitches. Which one of those fits you?

That is how a young Rio Grande riverboat captain named Richard King braced a stranger in Brownsville, Texas in 1850. "Back in Owensboro, Kentucky, sir," replied the stranger, "I was treasurer of the Methodist Church. I raised the money to build a new church house. Well—that church was never built—and here I am in Texas. Now, Captain King, which category do you come...