BEARER OF THE PIPE by Don Coldsmith


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The Saga of the Spanish Bit continues (Child of the Dead, 1995, etc.), a series launched years ago that tells the imagined history of an amorphous Native American tribe called The People--some sort of Plains Indians who've enjoyed limited contact with the Spanish and revel in their isolation and cultural development. In this latest installment, Coldsmith works through another generation in a straight fictional biography of Wolf Pup from birth to manhood. Wolf Pup, at the proper age, goes on a vision quest that forces the story's only conflict: He must decide whether to marry his adolescent love, Otter Woman, or apprentice himself to his grandfather, Singing Wolf, a tribal holy man. Without suspense, Wolf Pup chooses career over marriage. He's then carefully schooled in tribal lore, custom, and ritual, engages in a buffalo hunt, and learns the secrets of making spiritual contact and reading natural signs and ""story skins."" Eventually, of course, he also marries Otter Woman, and he receives his adult name, Pipe Bearer. Pushed forward by pedestrian dialogue that's often used--awkwardly--for long passages of exposition, Coldsmith's story trails off rather than ends, while his characters (the tale would be better suited as a YA) are imbued more with contemporary teenage angst and sensibilities than with historical accuracy. In an Author's Note, Coldsmith explains that he doesn't actually write these stories but only drafts them, then turns them over to ""longtime assistant"" Ann Bowman to ""finish."" Whether due to this practice or not, the People, along with their era and locale, remain vague enough here so that little or nothing of tribal character or anthropological insight is revealed. On balance, no less disappointing than others in the series.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1995
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Doubleday