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190 Western American Literature Nightwind. By Roberta Jean Mountjoy. (New York: Coward, McCann & Geoghegan, 1981. 356 pages, $13.95.) This novel is a half-breed, sometimes the heaving bosom of genre romance, then the blood and dust of a western adventure. What is supposed to be the tie that binds these two disparate styles is the author’s wellresearched and highly impressive knowledge of California’s rugged growth and the simultaneous downfall of Indian life and lore, about which Ms. Mountjoy writes with considerable authority. Unfortunately, all this research serves merely as background to an unconvincing story. Twin brothers come from England to find gold in the streams of northern California. Marc Opalgate is kind, good and under­ standing. His brother, Richard, is base, profligate and drinks too much. So much, in fact, that by the fourth page of the text he has raped a sleek, sixteen-year-old Indian of the Chalanui tribe whom he has come across in the woods. By page five, young Richard is dead. From this point forward we witness the metamorphosis of the young squaw into Nightwind, feminist and leader of her people. Simultaneously, the dead man’s kindly brother grows into a pioneer of entrepreneurial capitalism, taming the wilds of the redwood country and overseeing their conversion into so many board feet of lumber. As we follow the hero and heroine along their respective paths we are introduced to a pyromaniac, a kindly old drunken doctor, the hero’s cata­ tonic bride, and a priest suffering from the delusion that he is Father Junípero Serra. And, least convincingly, Nightwind and Marc Opalgate eventually become passionate, surreptitious lovers— the “savage” and the civilized man —■ with neither qualm nor even reference made to Nightwind’s unfortunate episode with Marc’s brother. Beneath all these unlikely goings-on, there is an elemental truth to this novel: that the growth of the white man’s influence in the American West begat the demise of Indian culture, not because it was pre-destined but because of carelessness, misunderstanding and an escalation of hostilities fomented in the name of government and God. One wishes only that Ms. Mountjoy had directed her considerable narrative skill and her devotion to history to a more serious examination of that sad fact. SUSAN LUKAS, Grandview, New York Mr. American. By George MacDonald Fraser. (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1981. 557 pages, $16.95.) Perhaps a more appropriate title for George MacDonald Fraser’s “Mr. American” might be “Mr. Stereotype.” Fraser’s theme of the cowboy abroad is closer to “Gary Cooper meets colorful English character types.” ...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-7142
Print ISSN
0043-3462
Pages
p. 190
Launched on MUSE
2017-10-04
Open Access
No
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