Books by Harry Combs

THE SCOUT by Harry Combs
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: June 16, 1995

Part two of a trilogy that began with this 82-year-old author's Brules (1994): a breezy recounting of the slaughter and destruction of Native American tribes in the Old West. This time out, narrator Cat Brules tells of his days as Indian scout for the US Army, and of some of the most important campaigns against the ``hostiles.'' He begins with the events leading up to Custer's debacle against the Sioux, and though the outcome is as expected, Brules's story contains a new twist. Here, Custer is wounded before the battle (maybe even killed outright—Brules is too far away to be sure) by Sioux who have been alerted by a traitorous scout. Dismissed before the engagement, Brules watches as Custer's men carry their fallen leader to a questionable defensive position, and are then wiped out. The Army soon exacts its revenge on the Sioux, though the defeat is more the result of Sioux starvation than US military prowess. New conquests await, and Brules is soon on the trail of the fleeing Chief Joseph and his Nez Perce. Stopped from entering Canada, the Indians are shuttled back to the reservation, and Brules takes a rest. He meets a Mormon family, tries to help their cattle operation (by decimating the local grizzly population), and then runs off with the rancher's daughter. But Brules quickly returns to the fray when the Army requests his assistance in hunting down Geronimo. The details here are always vivid, especially during the many fierce battles, as Brules & Co. blast apart yet another well-deserving band of ``hostiles.'' But what to make of all this joyful genocide? Brules experiences only the briefest remorse, and this from a man who kills dozens and dozens of people—or are they people? Violent, brutal, ugly, and probably all too true. Killing on a grand scale, with little of that bothersome guilt. Read full book review >
BRULES by Harry Combs
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: June 1, 1994

Impressive scope and vivid detail don't redeem this violent and misanthropic novel of a killer's journey across the Old West, by the author of Kill Devil Hill (1979). On a Colorado ranch in 1916, the elderly Cat Brules tells his story to a college-age listener. He begins in Hays City, Kans., where in 1867 he has just quit his job and plans to rob a Texas bank with his old friend Pedro. Brules has a night of wild sex with a prostitute named Michelle; returning to her room on the following night, he finds his former boss beating the woman. Brules kills him and must flee Hays City with Michelle. After traveling several days with little food or water, they cross paths with Pedro and decide to follow his trail markings southward. Comanches soon capture Brules and Michelle, torturing him and roasting her alive. Brules shoots his way out of the camp, only to find Pedro's remains further down the trail. He begins an Indian-killing spree to avenge his two friends' deaths, but after a Shoshone woman named Wild Rose nurses him back to health following a grizzly bear attack, his opinion of Native Americans changes. Brules and Wild Rose marry, have a daughter, and build a cabin. After a horse tramples his wife to death, Brules gives their child to the care of the Shoshone and lives the rest of his life in solitude. Many unnecessary digressions make this novel far too long. Its violence, moreover, is off-putting: Combs clearly intends Brules's hatred of Indians to reflect Old West attitudes, but the fugitive's racism becomes grating over the course of 500 pages; the 100 pages of domestic bliss following his marriage to Wild Rose cannot change the protagonist's brutal image. The bloodshed and bravado may thrill some shoot-'em-up enthusiasts, but this story is as flat as the western desert. (Author tour) Read full book review >