THE FAR CANYON by Elmer Kelton


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 In this sequel to the award-winning Slaughter (1992), Kelton again proves himself to be a resonant voice of the American West. In 1874 Jeff Layne, a Confederate veteran and reformed hide hunter sick of killing both men and buffalo, is on his way back to Texas to revive the family ranch, which fell into carpetbagger hands. With him are good-hearted--and big- bellied--Cap Dolittle, sophisticated Englishman Nigel Smithwick, and independent Ohio woman Arletta (now Mrs. Nigel Smithwick). When they reach Jeff's hometown, however, they discover that what's left of the Layne property is now owned by Jeff's longtime nemesis, Vesper Freed. Vesper also stole Jeff's girl, Eva, while Jeff was away. Rather than fight Vesper for an admittedly worthless piece of land, Jeff decides to build up a herd of cattle and then set out for a canyon he knows in Northern Texas to start a ranch. During the winter, however, Jeff becomes entangled in a vendetta involving Vesper, Mexican bandits, and his own hired hands. When Jeff's party moves out in the spring, they are accompanied by Eva (who plans to go as far as San Antonio) and the newest Smithwick, baby Becky. They eventually reach Jeff's distant canyon, although not without losses, and begin to build a new life. Interwoven with the story of Jeff and his friends is that of Crow Feather, a Comanche warrior. Rather than submit to the indignity of reservation life, Crow Feather and his family go to live in the relative safety of a sheltered canyon. They manage well until Crow Feather is captured and taken to the reservation. He attempts to escape repeatedly and suffers terribly at the hands of the soldiers before he finally is reunited with his family, who are living peacefully with the newly arrived ranchers. Finely crafted western fare. Wonderfully satisfying.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-385-24895-4
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: Doubleday
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 1994


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