FLAMING SKY by Earl Murray


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 A sequel to Thunder in the Dawn (1993, not reviewed) offers yet another version of Custer's Last Stand, as told by a fictional white eyewitness. In the summer of 1876, George Armstrong Custer and the 7th US Calvary rode to destruction at the hands of Crazy Horse, Sitting Bull, and the combined Sioux and Cheyenne Nations. No whites survived, but writers have ever since sought to explain how such a disaster could have happened. Adam Garret, hero of this newest version, is a lantern-jawed, fearless undercover journalist commissioned by Ulysses S. Grant to dig up dirt on political rival Custer. Although he's never been west before, Garret quickly adapts and becomes a better warrior than the Indians. He kills and scalps a Sioux brave almost before we have his name. Garret does not ``go native''as does his fiancÇe's brother, Mason Hall, an army deserterbut maintains drawing-room manners while developing a heightened sensitivity to the Indian's plight. Meanwhile, his fiancÇe has come west in pursuit of both lover and brother. Plodding earnestly through the leadings-up to Little Big Horn, the story is punctuated by redundant, wooden dialogue in which everyone, including rustics, speaks with perfect grammar in complete sentences. Overwritten, repetitive letters also keep the pace slow, while historical figures are accurately but broadly drawn, never quite penetrating legendary facades: Custer is egocentric, cruel, ambitious, and a bore; Libby, his wife, appears childlike and long-suffering; Crazy Horse is seen as a noble but misguided idealist. The massacre itself is so subordinated to the plot as to be virtually anticlimactic. Only those who've never read an account of the Little Big Horn debacle will find this romantic, revisionist interpretation plausible. Murray's done his homework (a very limited bibliography is included), but western fiction aficionados will find this account of Custer's Last Stand naive and shopworn.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-312-85915-5
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Forge
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 1995


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