America Re-Imagined, in Retrospect: Fifty Notable American Novels about the “West”: 30-32.

Kiefer, Warren.  Outlaw. New York: Dutton, 1989.

Warren Kiefer has had a colorful life in which he has pursued diverse interests. In the mid-1950s he was the manager of public relation in Latin America for Pfizer International.  Then, between 1958 and 1965, he made more than two dozen documentary films about Africa, the Middle East, and Europe. From 1965 to 1975, he produced feature films. And in 1974, he relocated to the Chaco region of Argentina, where he raised and trained horses. Between 1958 and 1992, he also wrote eight novels, one of which, The Lingala Code (1972), received an Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America.

But his most enduring work may be Outlaw, a historical novel not about a criminal in the Jesse James mode but about a Gilded Age figure with a personal history even more colorful than Kiefer’s own.  The novel is framed as his aged recollections of his experiences.  Orphaned during the last Apache uprising, Lee Garland, the novel’s protagonist, grows up quickly.  After a brief period in which he is a rustler, Garland becomes a wildcat oil man.  When the Spanish-American War breaks out, he enlists with Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders.  After the war and further success with speculative business investments, he is named ambassador to Mexico, where the long Civil War has been raging and he comes in contact with Pancho Villa.  He ends up as a respected New York banker, welcomed within New York high society.

 

Kilpatrick, Terrence.  Swimming Man Burning.  Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1977.

Terrence Kilpatrick’s only novel received a Spur Award from the Western Writers of America.  Swimming Man Burning presents a brutally realistic portrait of the Native American in post-Civil War America.  On a most literal level, it presents the somewhat ludicrous tale of four Native Americans who travel from the southern plains to Washington, D.C., on a mission to learn the secret of the White man’s strength.  Their guide, guardian, and intercessor is a frontiersman named Clay Benton.  For most of his adult life, Benton has lived among the Native Americans.  He had married an Native American woman and later found her and everyone else in their village massacred by the cavalry.  As the narrator, Benton is well suited.  His experience among both races enables him to view persons and circumstances more perceptively than any other character in the novel.

Through Benton, Kilpatrick conveys both the primitive nobility of the Native American and his pathetic naivete in dealing with Whites.  We also witness the self-serving treachery of Whites in their relations with the Native Americans and the confused fascination with which the supposedly civilized often regarded the incomprehensible indigenous cultures.  An apparently ludicrous tale is thus transformed into a miniature saga of the extended and tragic conflict between the two races, which were so diametrically dissimilar in so many ways that the destruction of the numerically, technologically, and politically weaker race inevitably resulted.  For the Native American, survival seemed to demand a perverse assimilation of the White culture at the expense of his own.  Indicative of the Native Americans’ plight is the fact that Son-of-a-Bitch, by becoming a hard-drinking, Bible-toting monstrosity, is the only one of the four Native American envoys who survives.

 

Leonard, Elmore.  Hombre.  New York: Ballantine, 1961.

Although Elmore Leonard is best known as an author of crime novels, he began his career in the 1950s as a writer of Westerns and only in the late 1960s and 1970s transitioned into the crime genre.  In his mastery of both genres, Leonard is comparable to Loren D. Estleman, though Estleman has continued to produce notable work in both genres.

In 1977, the Western Writers of America named Hombre one of the twenty-five best Western novels of all time.  A popular film adaptation of the novel, starring Paul Newman, had been released a decade earlier by Twentieth-Century Fox.  In one of the most memorable performances of his long career, Newman captures the essence of what has become the prototypical protagonist in the typical Leonard novel, whether in the Western or the crime genre.  That protagonist is a coolly self-reliant loner who ultimately engages in some sort of dangerous game that demonstrates his inherent, if very reluctantly exhibited empathy for those who are less capable of making their own way in the world.

John Russell is a White man who was raised by Apaches.  He prefers their company to that of Whites, and in his appearance and his manner, he can almost pass for an Apache.  The face that he presents to the world is generally implacable, but he is full of a controlled rage.  While returning from a visit to a boarding house that he has inherited, he finds himself on a stage on which a cross-section of Western types are traveling, including an Indian Agent who is carrying a great deal of money that he has misappropriated.  The stage is ambushed by outlaws, who then pursue the passengers across the arid wilderness.  Russell finds himself unable to desert people for whom he has little natural sympathy.

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Previous Posts in This Series:

America Re-Imagined, in Retrospect: Fifty Notable American Novels about the “West”: 1-2: https://academeblog.org/2014/09/10/america-re-imagined-in-retrospect-fifty-notable-american-novels-about-the-west-1-2/

America Re-Imagined, in Retrospect: Fifty Notable American Novels about the “West”: 3-5: https://academeblog.org/2014/09/16/america-re-imagined-in-retrospect-fifty-notable-american-novels-about-the-west-3-5/

America Re-Imagined, in Retrospect: Fifty Notable American Novels about the “West”: 6-8: https://academeblog.org/2014/09/20/america-re-imagined-in-retrospect-fifty-notable-american-novels-about-the-west-6-8/

America Re-Imagined, in Retrospect: Fifty Notable American Novels about the “West”: 9-11: https://academeblog.org/2014/10/04/america-re-imagined-in-retrospect-fifty-notable-american-novels-about-the-west-9-11/

America Re-Imagined, in Retrospect: Fifty Notable American Novels about the “West”: 12-14: https://academeblog.org/2014/10/12/america-re-imagined-in-retrospect-fifty-notable-american-novels-about-the-west-12-14/

America Re-Imagined, in Retrospect: Fifty Notable American Novels about the “West”: 15-17: https://academeblog.org/2014/10/21/america-re-imagined-in-retrospect-fifty-notable-american-novels-about-the-west-15-17/

America Re-Imagined, in Retrospect: Fifty Notable American Novels about the “West”: 18-20: https://academeblog.org/2014/11/02/america-re-imagined-in-retrospect-fifty-notable-american-novels-about-the-west-18-20/

America Re-Imagined, in Retrospect: Fifty Notable American Novels about the “West”: 21-23: https://academeblog.org/2014/11/09/america-re-imagined-in-retrospect-fifty-notable-american-novels-about-the-west-21-23/

America Re-Imagined, in Retrospect: Fifty Notable American Novels about the “West”: 24-26: https://academeblog.org/2014/11/23/america-re-imagined-in-retrospect-fifty-notable-american-novels-about-the-west-24-26/

America Re-Imagined, in Retrospect: Fifty Notable American Novels about the “West”: 27-29: https://academeblog.org/2014/12/25/america-re-imagined-in-retrospect-fifty-notable-american-novels-about-the-west-27-29/

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Posts in the Previous Series:

National (In-)Security: Fifty Notable American Espionage Novels: 1-3: https://academeblog.org/2014/05/30/national-in-security-fifty-notable-american-espionage-novels-1-3/

National (In-)Security: Fifty Notable American Espionage Novels: 4-5: https://academeblog.org/2014/05/31/national-in-security-fifty-notable-american-espionage-novels-4-5/

National (In-)Security: Fifty Notable American Espionage Novels: 6-7: https://academeblog.org/2014/06/01/national-in-security-fifty-notable-american-espionage-novels-6-7/

National (In-)Security: Fifty Notable American Espionage Novels: 8-10: https://academeblog.org/2014/06/04/national-in-security-fifty-notable-american-espionage-novels-8-10/

National (In-)Security: Fifty Notable American Espionage Novels: 11-13: https://academeblog.org/2014/06/06/national-in-security-fifty-notable-american-espionage-novels-11-13/

National (In-)Security: Fifty Notable American Espionage Novels: 14-16: https://academeblog.org/2014/06/11/national-in-security-fifty-notable-american-espionage-novels-14-16/

National (In-)Security: Fifty Notable American Espionage Novels: 17-19: https://academeblog.org/2014/06/18/national-in-security-fifty-notable-american-espionage-novels-17-19/

National (In-)Security: Fifty Notable American Espionage Novels: 20-22: https://academeblog.org/2014/06/25/national-in-security-fifty-notable-american-espionage-novels-20-22/

National (In-)Security: Fifty Notable American Espionage Novels: 23-25: https://academeblog.org/2014/07/07/national-in-security-fifty-notable-american-espionage-novels-23-25/

National (In-)Security: Fifty Notable American Espionage Novels: 26-29: https://academeblog.org/2014/07/11/national-in-security-fifty-notable-american-espionage-novels-26-29/

National (In-)Security: Fifty Notable American Espionage Novels: 30-32: https://academeblog.org/2014/07/23/national-in-security-fifty-notable-american-espionage-novels-30-32/

National (In-)Security: Fifty Notable American Espionage Novels: 33: https://academeblog.org/2014/07/29/national-in-security-fifty-notable-american-espionage-novels-33/

National (In-)Security: Fifty Notable American Espionage Novels: 34-36: https://academeblog.org/2014/08/10/national-in-security-fifty-notable-american-espionage-novels-34-36/

National (In-)Security: Fifty Notable American Espionage Novels: 37-39: https://academeblog.org/2014/08/15/national-in-security-fifty-notable-american-espionage-novels-37-39/

National (In-)Security: Fifty Notable American Espionage Novels: 40-42: https://academeblog.org/2014/08/21/national-in-security-fifty-notable-american-espionage-novels-40-42/

National (In-)Security: Fifty Notable American Espionage Novels: 43-45: https://academeblog.org/2014/08/23/national-in-security-fifty-notable-american-espionage-novels-43-45/

National (In-)Security: Fifty Notable American Espionage Novels: 46-48: https://academeblog.org/2014/08/26/national-in-security-fifty-notable-american-espionage-novels-46-48/

National (In-)Security: Fifty Notable American Espionage Novels: 49-50: https://academeblog.org/2014/08/30/national-in-security-fifty-notable-american-espionage-novels-49-50/

 

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