Books by Jim Fergus

THE WILD GIRL by Jim Fergus
Released: May 4, 2005

"Fergus (One Thousand White Women, 1988) writes simply and sincerely in a brisk tale that offers a compassionate portrait of the beleaguered Native Americans. Still, predictable in form and stereotyped in character, it rarely rises above the conventional."
Historical adventure with a conscience set in 1930s Mexico. Read full book review >
Released: April 1, 1998

Long, brisk, charming first novel about an 1875 treaty between Ulysses S. Grant and Little Wolf, chief of the Cheyenne nation, by the sports reporter and author of the memoir A Hunter's Road (1992). Little Wolf comes to Washington and suggests to President Grant that peace between the Whites and Cheyenne could be established if the Cheyenne were given white women as wives, and that the tribe would agree to raise the children from such unions. The thought of miscegenation naturally enough astounds Grant, but he sees a certain wisdom in trading 1,000 white women for 1,000 horses, and he secretly approves the Brides For Indians treaty. He recruits women from jails, penitentiaries, debtors' prisons, and mental institutions—offering full pardons or unconditional release. May Dodd, born to wealth in Chicago in 1850, had left home in her teens and become the mistress of her father's grain-elevator foreman. Her outraged father had her kidnaped, imprisoning her in a monstrous lunatic asylum. When Grant's offer arrives, she leaps at it and soon finds herself traveling west with hundreds of white and black would-be brides. All are indentured to the Cheyenne for two years, must produce children, and then will have the option of leaving. May, who keeps the journal we read, marries Little Wolf and lives in a crowded tipi with his two other wives, their children, and an old crone who enforces the rules. Reading about life among the Cheyenne is spellbinding, especially when the women show up the braves at arm-wrestling, foot-racing, bow-shooting, and gambling. Liquor raises its evil head, as it will, and reduces the braves to savagery. But the women recover, go out on the winter kill with their husbands, and accompany them to a trading post where they drive hard bargains and stop the usual cheating of the braves. Eventually, when the cavalry attacks the Cheyenne, mistakenly thinking they're Crazy Horse's Sioux, May is killed. An impressive historical, terse, convincing, and affecting. Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 1992

Wonderfully evoked natural scenes and portraits of hunters from a free-lance writer. Fergus was 39 when he developed a ``strange, overpowering obsession with bird hunting''—which he hadn't thought about since he was a boy—and came home with a shotgun and a yellow Labrador puppy, Sweetzer, named after a mountain ridge in Idaho, where Fergus and his wife lived. Once Sweetzer and Fergus learned the fundamentals, the author decided they would attempt to hunt as many bird species in different habitats as is possible in a season. Thereupon hangs Fergus's picaresque tale, in which he and Sweetzer cover 17,000 miles in five months, from stalking chukar partridges on rocky Montana mountainsides to shooting snipe in the steamy Mobile delta. Fergus paints wonderful portraits of his hunting companions—from novelists Richard Ford and Robert F. Jones to Florida blue-bloods, from dirt farmers who gladly stop their work to take Fergus and Sweetzer on a quick grouse hunt to ``slob'' hunters who ride the roads drinking beer and shooting birds on the ground. The dogs here are also all memorable personalities, as befits bird hunters' closest partners. To his credit, Fergus presents the current antihunting arguments and talks them over with leading bird biologists; most contend that habitat loss, rather then hunting pressure, has been responsible for the declines in bird populations. Among his adventures, Fergus goes on several organized hunts in preserves (one with a group of grim big-city detectives, who blow every bird to shreds) and laments that so much habitat in the US is becoming privatized—a situation long extant in Europe, where bird hunting is an exclusive pursuit of the rich. A top-notch dog-and-gun-book, with sympathetic focus on humans and animals as well as some fine nature writing. Read full book review >