Thursday, October 17, 2019

Paperback Western: "Wrath of the Savage" by Charles G. West

Paperback Western: Wrath of the Savage by Charles G. West, 2014, 9780451468192.

A throwback Western where the Native Americans are mostly bad and the white people mostly good. I decided to read this as a novel that is firmly stuck in it's 1876 setting on the far Western frontier of Wyoming and Montana. There is a guerrilla war ranging and raging across thousands of square miles. Some tribes are actively fighting the US Army and others are just trying to get by. Same goes with the white people moving in. Having the Native Americans as savages is sensible for the main characters but not for us.

Second Lieutenant Bret Hollister is a recent West Point graduate who arrives at his newly assigned prairie Fort shortly after the Little Big Horn. Hollister helped clean up the bodies at the battlefield but his unit has been left at post while other units pursue the Lakotas and Cheyenne. Holister is a hard charger. He is assigned a short patrol to investigate the recent burning of several white homesteads. While on patrol he discovers that two women were kidnapped by the Native American who burned the farms. In the process of searching for the raiders his men are ambushed at night. The next morning Hollister and the recently hired civilian guide go after the women and the lone cavalry survivor is tasked with returning the cavalrymen's bodies and reporting back at the Fort.

Well, things don't go well. The surviving Trooper runs into a deserter and the two concoct a story about Hollister being a coward and running off. When Hollister and the guide end their search and return to the Fort Hollister is court martialed and kicked out of the Army. Bummer, Hollister. You've spent your life as an Army brat, four years at West Point, and are now set adrift. What will you do? "Well, might as well continue searching for the two women."

Things happen. Hollister teams up with the civilian guide again. They rescue one woman. Break away to recover. Go back for the second woman. Sneak away once more. Are pursued by a vengeful Native American. Have a couple more gunfights. Live happily ever after.

The troublesome parts of this novel are some of those standard Western motifs: Savages who raid, kidnap, rape and murder. Hell, the title is a bit of a tip off, isn't it? Kidnapping and rape of white people is well documented. But, having Native Americans as the default bad guys just doesn't sit well as people - meaning me - have come to understand a balance of what was happening on the frontiers.

Anyway. My decision to take this as the characters being a firm a part of their time got me through the novel. They battle both sides as the Army betrays Hollister and Hollister's main opponents are a couple vain and puffed-up Native Americans who their own tribes don't even want around.

Hollister and Co. don't hate the tribes. West doesn't have portray the tribes as bloodthirsty primitives. But, I felt some real discomfort reading this. Striking a balance between period and modern ain't easy. Heck, I had typed "Indian" throughout this text and changed it to Native American because I'm feeling Indian is either offensive or just kinda dick-ish to use. If I was paying attention I could use the character names or tribes but I don't remember those things.

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