SLAUGHTER by Elmer Kelton


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An Englishman, a tough girl from Ohio, a cowboy, and a Comanche come together in a search for the last of the great herds of bison--in another outstanding western by the author of Honor at Daybreak (1991). Moat Comanches find it impossible to believe the ridiculous rumors that reach them from the territory of the less-than-credible Cheyenne, who believe that white men have begun systematically to eliminate the bison, the animal on which the Plains tribes depend for food. The big animals have always been limitless. Crow Feather, an intelligent and capable hunter, sets out to see whether there's a basis for the rumor and quickly learns that the reality is worse than the Cheyennes' stories: The white men are killing just for skins, leaving thousands of corpses to rot on the plains. Crow Feather's search brings him closer and closer to a hunting operation headed by a former Union army colonel, Damon Cregar. Colonel Cregar's moat capable scout is Jefferson Layne, a displaced Texan who's befriended British remittance man Nigel Smithwick. Smithwick fell in with the company after being thrown from a westbound train for winning too much at poker. Smithwick and Col. Cregar are both much taken with Arletta Browder, the competent, redheaded daughter of one of the colonel's subcontractors. Arletta favors the Englishman, but, despite good advice from Layne, Smithwick is still too class-conscious to know how to handle her. Meanwhile, exhaustion of the herds on the northern plains drives the white hunters farther and farther south into Indian territory, where the tribes have begun to understand that success for the white man will mean the end of the Indians' lives as free men. A horrifying story told without sentiment or bias. Kelton's spare, unadorned, and sophisticated writing gives intense pleasure without ever calling attention to itself.

Pub Date: Nov. 9th, 1992
ISBN: 0875653715
Page count: 369pp
Publisher: Doubleday