Connect with us

Thai Life

Books: New Western novel a Wild West of cliches

Published

 on 

PHUKET: There was a time, for about three decades in the middle of the last century, when Westerns were the predominant form of American entertainment. Books, magazines, movies and television shows were all devoted to tales of the Old West. Cowboy writer Louis L’Amour was the country’s bestselling author, and even the great Elmore Leonard got his start writing pulp Westerns.

Along the way, some real literature was created: Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry, Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy and True Grit by Charles Portis. The latest candidate for this kind of immortality is Robert Bausch’s Far as the Eye Can See (Bloomsbury, New York, 2015, 307pp).

Alas, it doesn’t even come close to raising the bar. While the aforementioned novelists fully inhabited their 19th century characters, Bausch remains stubbornly apart, a sentimental 21st century voice of political correctness – showy reverence for nature and the American Indian – despite a stab at ungrammatical narration. The plot is contrived, the characters shallow, the philosophizing lame.

The narrator is Bobby Hale who had made a living during the Civil War by collecting recruitment bonuses, deserting, and then claiming a new bonus under a new bogus name. He did this seven times. Nevertheless, he did get caught up in some battles – Fredericksburg, Chickamauga, Spotsylvania – and acquitted himself well.

After the war, in 1869, he joins a wagon train going west, equipped with a fast mare named Cricket and an Evans repeating rifle with a magazine of 34 bullets. His vague idea is to find land and a wife in Oregon or California. Instead, he wanders off hunting and trapping in ‘the paradise’ of the Rocky Mountains with a giant Crow Scout named Big Tree. “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, there wasn’t never a man more free on earth than an Indian,” Hale observes.

In line with every cliche, Big Tree is both magnificent and silent. In any event, after five years in the wilderness, Hale never picks up any Indian language. He does acquire an Indian bride, a tall Sioux named Morning Breeze, but she runs off with Big Tree, leaving Hale to return to white civilization in Bozeman, Montana.

Here he winters in a covered wagon with two sisters, Eveline and Christine Barkley. He becomes informally betrothed to Eveline before going off to scout for the US cavalry in Yellowstone Valley. This is in the spring of 1876, just before Custer’s Last Stand. Hale promises to return to Eveline in June.

Instead, through more improbable plot contrivances, he winds up fleeing both the Indians and the cavalry. He shoots a stalking Indian only to find his victim is a half-white woman named Ink, captured by the Sioux at age 16 and fleeing her warrior husband of five years, named Hump.

As Ink is recuperating from her wounds, Hale gives her this phony little speech: “I been where most folks never go. I seen what most folks never seen. I fought in battles… I foraged and roamed the countryside like a wild animal with other wild animals. I know what I’m doing.”

Hale and Ink head for Fort Buford in North Dakota where Ink’s white father was last seen. In their wanderings, they adopt a cute little Cheyenne orphan boy, Little Fox. They sleep by day and travel by night, afraid of the relentless Hump, but it is a group of white renegades who rape and abduct Ink, leading her to decide to stick to the Indians, specifically the Nez Perce, who have a reputation for tolerance and peace.

Thus, the novel ends tied in a tidy bow, decorated with more leaden philosophizing. In case this is not enough, the author appends a windy afterword, continuing his lecture on Native Americans 101. The moral is that white men are bad: “They believed that God blessed them in their endeavors… This meant ‘civilizing’ and ‘saving’ those who were not of the same belief, and eradicating those who could not accept it.”

— James Eckardt

 

Get more from The Thaiger

Join the conversation and have your say on Thailand news published on The Thaiger.

Thaiger Talk is our new Thaiger Community where you can join the discussion on everything happening in Thailand right now.

Please note that articles are not posted to the forum instantly and can take up to 20 min before being visible. Click for more information and the Thaiger Talk Guidelines.

Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

Follow Thaiger by email:

Crime1 min ago

1 dead, 4 injured as gunmen rampage at a Bangkok wedding

Crime16 mins ago

Tenant fined 140,000 baht for keeping dog in Bangkok condominium

Pattaya30 mins ago

Speedo-wearing middle-aged joggers in Jomtien cause uproar

Sponsored2 hours ago

British International School Phuket: Reflecting on 25 years of world-class education

Thailand44 mins ago

Thailand No.1 in the world for a wellness retreat

Health47 mins ago

Which type of health insurance do you need in Thailand?

Thailand1 hour ago

Gunman wounds 8 in Jerusalem, 48 dead in Israeli Gaza strikes

Join the conversation on the Thaiger Talk forums today!
Thailand2 hours ago

Thailand among top 5 destinations for Chinese travelers | GMT

Travel14 hours ago

Where to find underrated international cuisines in Bangkok

Bangkok15 hours ago

Chinatown manhole covers to use art, tech to become cultural map

Transport16 hours ago

Man fights Indian Railways for 22 years for justice (and 9 baht)

Events18 hours ago

Tourism Minister visits Full Moon Party, supports later curfew

Crime18 hours ago

Thais cautioned against fake government websites

Thailand19 hours ago

Another Thai boxer dies from brain injury after fight in Malaysia

Thailand19 hours ago

Expats in Thailand, Cartoon characters & Letting Loose | Thaiger Bites

Pattaya19 hours ago

VIDEO: Young Thais have a blast at Pattaya Music Festival weekend 2

Thailand11 months ago

Morning Top Stories Thailand | Police to end protests, Human Trafficking | September 14

Thailand1 year ago

Thailand News Today | Thai Airways in rehab, All go for Songkran | March 4

Tourism1 year ago

Phuket’s nightlife. Yes, bars and clubs are still open | VIDEO

Phuket1 year ago

Thailand News Today | Covid passport talks, Thai Airways heads to court | March 2

Tourism1 year ago

Phuket Thai food treats you need to try | VIDEO

Thailand1 year ago

Thailand News Today | Bars, pubs and restaurants ‘sort of’ back to normal | Feb 23

Tourism1 year ago

In search of Cat & Dog Cafés in Phuket Town | VIDEO

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Gambling crackdown, Seafood market to reopen, Vlogger challenge | Jan 21

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Covid testing for visas, Business impact, Vaccine approval | January 19

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Weekend Bangkok bombs, Thailand fires, Covid update | January 18

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Stray car on runway, Indonesian quake, 300 baht tourist fee | January 15

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Governor off respirator, sex-trafficking arrest, condo prices falling | January 14

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Chinese vaccine, Thailand ‘drug hub’, Covid update | January 13

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Bangkok may ease restrictions, Phuket bar curfew, Vaccine roll out | January 12

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Covid latest, Cockfights closed down, Bryde’s Whale beached | January 11

Trending