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Henry Plummer: A Novel. By Frank Bird Linderman. Foreword by Sarah Waller Hatfield. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2000. 221 pages, $16.95. Reviewed by Roscoe L. Buckland Western Washington University Henry Plummer: A Novel is a semifictional account of the outlaw/sheriff who terrorized the raining camps of the Bannock and Virginia City area of Montana until he and his band were hanged in January 1864. The rise and fall of Henry Plummer is a legend of the Idaho/Montana frontier and a chapter in the history of American vigilantism. The novel was completed in 1920, but this printing is its first publication. It is an interesting study in the problems of the popular historical romance and an insightful narrative of a frontier incident. In the foreword, Linderman’s granddaughter, Sara Waller Hatfield, describes his attempts to get the book published. He had been gathering material on Plummer for twenty years. By the time he wrote the novel, he was well estab­ lished with Scribner’s as a writer of Indian and Montana lore, but they respectLeather Album Cover. Leatherwork by Ray Holes, 1956. Photograph by Kelly Powell, 1984. Courtesy of the Idaho Commission on the Arts. WAL 3 6 .1 S p rin g 2 0 0 1 fully declined the Plummer book because it was too factual, falling between fiction and biography. Linderman’s problem was that he was attempting to make Henry Plummer the hero of a conventional historical romance, for which the formula was a love story of a fictional man and woman played out against a historical background dominated by an actual historical figure. As the artist Charlie Russell said to Linderman, “[B]e shure and stick in a lady and a hero” (x). Instead, Linderman made Plummer himself into the romantic hero—an intelligent, educated man of good family who has chosen a life of crime; ruthless, cold-blooded, deceptive, and charming, he was the secret leader of a gang of murderous robbers in the goldfields ofCalifornia, Idaho, and Montana. After being elected sheriff, he establishes his gang headquarters in a mountain hideaway, but he fears that the innocent young lady he manied may learn about his true life. Linderman portrays Plummer as disdaining the low men he leads and as suffering bouts of self-loathing. He sends his wife away before he himself is captured and hanged, and he faces death philosophically and gallantly. It is in this characterization that the novel falters. Other accounts of Plummer picture him as a man more possessed with arrogance than with self-loathing. Most notably, it was said that at the hanging, he was far from gallant, breaking down and begging for his life. In spite of the weakness of the romance plot, the novel is well worth reading. The factual material itself provides the stuff for a tale of adventure and intrigue: secret gang meetings at a remote headquarters; secret meetings of Freemasons forming a band of vigilantes; outlaws whose secret password was “innocent”; vigilantes with a “notice” card imprinted with a skull and crossbones and the cryptic numbers “3-7-77”; an outlaw running for sheriff as a reform candidate; the play of North and South politics in the Far West; life in mining camps. Linderman skillfully weaves this material into the plot. Above all, he captures the spirit of the frontier mining town with its transient population in a terri­ tory that straddled the Continental Divide, where the only civic unifying force was the society of Freemasons. Alamo Heights. By Scott Zesch. Fort Worth: Texas Christian University Press, 1999. 321 pages, $24.50. Reviewed by Tom Pilkington Tarleton State University, Stephenville, Texas Alamo Heights is a historical novel not about the Battle of the Alamo, but about the battle for the Alamo. Playwright Scott Zesch has composed a . . . — I started to write screenplay, since this is a story that fairly begs to be turned into a motion picture. Zesch has composed a breezy, readable nanative of a littleknown sequence of events in Texas and western American history. In the first decade of the twentieth century, the Daughters of the Republic ...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-7142
Print ISSN
0043-3462
Pages
pp. 93-94
Launched on MUSE
2017-10-04
Open Access
No
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