Books by John Loveday

Released: Oct. 1, 1997

A beautiful Mandan slave married to a white painter is widowed, harassed, and driven out of town in this crude, overstuffed, stunningly insensitive western. After Long Shadow, a menacing former suitor, tracks her to the small pioneer town of Buffalo Sky and kills her husband, Two Songs moves into Mama Eldo's boarding house and then escapes to her Sioux encampment following Long Shadow's sporadic fire-arrow attacks, local residents' open hostility, and an attempted rape. Her young companions, Cappy and Alice, narrate in alternating passages, which are fortunately labeled, since there is no perceptible difference in their voices. While watching such rustic amusements as a man who bites off rat tails, Alice and Two Songs are kidnapped by Long Shadow, but escape when he is, quite by chance, killed. When the travelers arrive at the camp, the chief feeds them his favorite dog, offers them whiskey, and, conveniently, invites the former slave to stay as his wives' guest. Cappy and Alice make their way back to Buffalo Sky, only to find it burned by raiders, its survivors fled—an abrupt ending that leaves the main story and several subplots dangling. Loveday wavers between a serious and a comic tone in his loosely plotted tale, thereby trivializing much of Two Songs' experience with farcical elements. (Fiction. 11-13) Read full book review >
HALO by John Loveday
Released: Oct. 3, 1994

Poet Loveday's Whitman-inspired first novel is narrated by a young man named Scrag who's traveling west with a wagon train. Scrag is alone in the world, but his fellow travelers become his family. Among them are Justly, a girl who is turning into a woman; Lorelei, Justly's mother; and Sylvester, a photographer there to record the trip ``as it was.'' What Sylvester does with images, Scrag achieves with words. He describes daily life—making fires, tending the animals, skinning rabbits—and tells of the exceptional occurrences, such as the travelers' encounter with a dead Indian, or Scrag's own sexual awakening at the sight of Justly wading. Along the trail, Lorelei teaches Scrag about love while Sylvester teaches him about poetry. In one of the book's loveliest scenes, Sylvester reads aloud from Leaves of Grass by candlelight while Lorelei gently holds Scrag and Justly sleeps. These are Scrag's ``halcyon days,'' as Sylvester tells him. In the wilderness, the love between a young man and an older woman can flourish and the unschooled can appreciate poetry, but Scrag knows that the trail must eventually end. When the party reaches Halo, a violent frontier town that belies its name, things that were beautiful and innocent in the wilderness are defiled—a chambermaid leers at Lorelei and Scrag, and townspeople seize Sylvester's pictures and destroy them. Sylvester himself is arrested for perversion, and he is tried in a kangaroo court by a judge who knows nothing of art. The wagon train moves on, but with the sadness that accompanies reality. When they reach Oregon, Scrag leaves his extended family and goes on to Oregon City with Lorelei and Justly. He takes with him the lessons he learned on the trail and a purpose in life: to record truth as Sylvester has recorded it—the way it was. A haunting story told with unaffected elegance. Read full book review >