THE SCOUT by Harry Combs


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 Part two of a trilogy that began with this 82-year-old author's Brules (1994): a breezy recounting of the slaughter and destruction of Native American tribes in the Old West. This time out, narrator Cat Brules tells of his days as Indian scout for the US Army, and of some of the most important campaigns against the ``hostiles.'' He begins with the events leading up to Custer's debacle against the Sioux, and though the outcome is as expected, Brules's story contains a new twist. Here, Custer is wounded before the battle (maybe even killed outright--Brules is too far away to be sure) by Sioux who have been alerted by a traitorous scout. Dismissed before the engagement, Brules watches as Custer's men carry their fallen leader to a questionable defensive position, and are then wiped out. The Army soon exacts its revenge on the Sioux, though the defeat is more the result of Sioux starvation than US military prowess. New conquests await, and Brules is soon on the trail of the fleeing Chief Joseph and his Nez Perce. Stopped from entering Canada, the Indians are shuttled back to the reservation, and Brules takes a rest. He meets a Mormon family, tries to help their cattle operation (by decimating the local grizzly population), and then runs off with the rancher's daughter. But Brules quickly returns to the fray when the Army requests his assistance in hunting down Geronimo. The details here are always vivid, especially during the many fierce battles, as Brules & Co. blast apart yet another well-deserving band of ``hostiles.'' But what to make of all this joyful genocide? Brules experiences only the briefest remorse, and this from a man who kills dozens and dozens of people--or are they people? Violent, brutal, ugly, and probably all too true. Killing on a grand scale, with little of that bothersome guilt.

Pub Date: June 16th, 1995
ISBN: 0-385-31198-2
Page count: 608pp
Publisher: Delacorte
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 1995