A Search for Roots in the Old West
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 A slow poke through Montana by Conrad (former editor of Horizons), a guy who likes a side dish of bile to accompany his travels. Conrad hits the road in the Big Sky State to take in the scenery and dig up a little family history. The family side of the story comes and goes--both grandfathers moved to the territory back in the late 1800s--with Conrad trying valiantly to paint them as fascinating characters. They're not, even with murder, mayhem, and adultery thrown in. Nor does Conrad succeed as an artful recorder of today's Montana. He can't help trotting out the obligatory Montaniana--barroom fisticuffs, brushes with Mr. Griz, trouty days, whiskey nights--while historical context comes in spurts from the ``Billings was named after Frederick Billings, an executive of the...'' school of background information. He mooches around with a fine disregard for the consequences, a little piece of bravery much to his credit. Most folks Conrad runs into are either forlorn, bitter, drunk, or just plain ready to brawl--bump into someone and get your lights punched out, mention the wrong name and get your lights punched out, offer an ill-timed comment and get your lights punched out. Then again, maybe he just spent too much time in bars. There is a wealth of detail in theses pages, some of it captivating, from ghoulish doings in Great Falls to the virtues of buffalo meat to tensions over wolf reintroduction to the quick portraits of the folks he crosses paths with, but little, if any, continuity. One item is cobbled to another, a pastiche from which an image of Montana never emerges. Don't expect to learn why they call this land the Last Great Place; even as a miscellany, Conrad's sidelong glimpse of Montana never conjures much excitement. (Photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-06-258551-7
Page count: 304pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 1994