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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.” Reviews 191 But that is not all bad, as the reader follows Fraser’s newly rich, ex-gunman protagonist, Mark Franklin, through a smorgasbord of experiences in English society. And it is this variety which is the book’s strength as a casual entertainment, time spent with old, familiar character types entwined in neat, albeit heavy-handed plots. This novel serves up the conflict of traditional American (read: fron­ tier) values with traditional English (read: upper class) values; the disparity between the upper and lower English classes; traditional male and female roles versus the feminist argument; a gunfight between Mark Franklin and his old nemesis, Kid Curry; the rivalry of the newly arrived American with the local, titled, young landowner over the hand of a beautiful young woman whose father’s estate is having financial trouble; a presentation of the Irish issue from a royalist perspective; a tense courtroom drama with idealism and righteousness fighting tradition and realpolitik; a criminal investigation which reveals the American’s hidden outlaw past, a past kept from all those around him including his wife but not including his very competent gentle­ man’s man (read: sidekick) ; and marriage strife complete with adultery and false suspicions. Mr. Fraser is the author of the “Flashman” books; and indeed, Sir Harry Flashman, now in his nineties, adds considerable flavor and zest to this novel whenever he appears. This is in great contrast to the American Mark Franklin, an ex-member of the Hole-in-the-Wall gang and ex-miner who struck it rich in the Tonopah silver lode and “retired” back to...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-7142
Print ISSN
0043-3462
Pages
pp. 190-191
Launched on MUSE
2017-10-04
Open Access
No
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