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166 Western American Literature Yellowfsh. By John Keeble. (New York: Harper and Row, 1980. 310 pages, $10.95.) Yellowfish is an ambitious adventure novel set mainly in the Pacific Northwest. The genre is adventure-thriller and the form is “on the road again” — so to speak — as Wesley Erks, a small time mechanic-farmer of Davenport, Washington, drives a Travelall over the scenic Northwest from Vancouver, B.C. to Reno, then to San Francisco. He is transporting “Yellowfish ,” illegal Chinese immigrants, into the U.S., for money, of course. The thriller aspect of the plot involves a man dying of a stab wound in Erks’ truck, pursuit of Erks by villains (Chinese Tongs, Commies, drug smugglers — you name it — things are a bit comic bookish and murky here). Naturally Erks, in the tradition of Humphrey Bogart, is a man involved in crime, sometimes cocaine running, sometimes smuggling yellowfish, but basically moral — given the milieu — a code hero a la Hemingway. John Keeble’s best writing in the novel occurs in his superb descriptions of the road. The mountains, rivers, plains, winds, and oddball characters along the way are well realized. The novel has already created a bit of stir in the Northwest as avid chauvinists point to the depiction of “our” land­ scape. Keeble’s style is very much influenced by his reading of William Faulkner, but done with only a few lapses into Faulkner’s sometimes over­ wrought style. Yellowfish is good entertainment with many flashes of brilliant land­ scape description. The thriller aspect is only vaguely realized; obviously it is only a vehicle for Keeble’s study of Erks, who, we must say, can drive and adhere to his vision, limited as it is, of his dedication to task and “ideals.” Descriptions of his wife and son round out the characterization to show us a man doing what he must to keep bread on the table. John Keeble has done much with his craftmanship here. He is a novelist who loves language, scenery, history, and somewhat far-fetched plots. All in all, however, he is a novelist with fine potential for reader entertainment. ROBERT B. OLAFSON Eastern Washington University The Wolf and the Buffalo. By Elmer Kelton. (Garden City, N. Y.: Double­ day & Company, 1980. 432 pages, $12.95.) Elmer Kelton of San Angelo, Texas, spent two years researching and writing his most recent historical western novel, The Wolf and the Buffalo. It is a true-to-life story of two men, a black soldier and a young Com­ anche warrior, whose lives and destinies cross during the late 1860s. The setting is early day Fort Concho, Saint Angela (San Angelo) and the Reviews 167 Texas plains stretching from the Rio Grande to the upper reaches of the Panhandle. This novel and The Time It Never Rained (1973) along with The Day the Cowboys Quit (1971) and The Good Old Boys (1978), indi­ cate that Kelton is truly among the finest authors of western American literature currently writing. Throughout the novel, the reader moves between the lives of the Indian, Gray Horse Running, and the black, Gideon Ledbetter. The two men are alike in many ways, and Kelton has said, “I have long been struck by the fact that though the black and the Indian had a great deal in common in those days, few of them seem to have realized it at the time.” (Personal Communication, August 24, 1980) Kelton puts this thought in Ledbetter’s mind (p. 50). The Battle of Adobe Walls on the Texas High Plains is told in bloody detail from the Indian’s point of view. The battle resulted in a major defeat of the Plains Indians who were attempting to drive out the ever-increasing number of hide hunters who came to take the skins of the buffalo, and who left the meat to the coyotes and wolves. There are several minor themes in the novel, but the author’s main emphasis concerns the changing frontier and the changing life for the Plains Indians. Whether or not the government had a policy bordering on Indian genocide, the greedy and wasteful buffalo hide hunters contributed to the change by almost exterminating the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-7142
Print ISSN
0043-3462
Pages
pp. 166-167
Launched on MUSE
2017-10-04
Open Access
No
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