In this masterful epic tale of embattled white settlers trying to cross hostile Indian territory ten years after the end of the Civil War, led by a black scout they neither like nor trust, Texas novelist Reynolds (The Vigil, Agatite--both 1986) captures all the complexities of a nation still torn by racial hatred and driven to conquer its final frontier. Moses Franklin is a man with a dream: a black settlement on Blind Man's Creek, one of the few reliable sources of water on the Texas plains for wagon trains heading west. Moses is an ex-slave and Army scout who hires out as a guide to get enough money to realize his vision, but what is supposed to be his final crossing through Indian territory has turned to disaster. The train is attacked by a fierce band of Comanches and trapped in a series of caves near an isolated creek crossing. The settlers are more than ready to blame Moses for their troubles. Wagon-master Cleve Graham tells him directly that he intends to kill him if they ever make their Sante Fe destination. The only ally the scout has is strong-willed Aggie Sterling, but a teenage blond beauty is hardly ideal support for a black man who's as hated by those he is supposed to protect as he is by the Indians. It seems at first that the Indians want the shipment of whiskey that the wagons are carrying. But when Moses and a companion leave the makeshift fortress to seek help, then rescue and fall in with the novel's most memorable character, feisty plainsman Carlson Colfax, the real problem (engendered by an extraordinary coincident) becomes evident. Filled with ongoing violence (made all the more horrible by the matter-of-fact presentation) and fleshed out with flashbacks into the lives of Moses, Graham and Aggie, this powerful--albeit overlong--tale paints an unforgettable picture of a time and place not nearly so distant as it seems.