ZEKE AND NED by Larry McMurtry


Email this review


Pulitzer Prize winner McMurtry (Dead Man's Walk, 1995, etc.) and his collaborator on Pretty Boy Floyd (1994) attempt to bestow mythic stature on a maverick American Indian in this for-want-of-a-nail yarn set in 1870s Oklahoma. A half-breed member of the Cherokee Nation, Zeke Proctor is a hard-drinking, happy-go-lucky smallholder. Although married and the father of five, he is surreptitiously bedding the local miller's wife. When her aggrieved husband, a white man, takes revenge by shoveling weevils into Zeke's ground corn, the Civil War vet accidentally shoots and kills his paramour while gunning for the cuckold. Afraid of being hauled before a white judge and swiftly condemned, Zeke takes shelter with his Cherokee son-in-law Ned Christie, claiming the right to be judged by his own people. On the day of his trial in an Indian tribunal, the departed's vindictive brothers precipitate a massacre that leaves 12 more dead. Acquitted in a sham proceeding, Zeke is eventually granted amnesty by President Ulysses S. Grant. By contrast, Ned (unjustly blamed by white officials for the courthouse bloodbath and subsequent murder of a federal marshal) is forced to take to the hills. At the cost of an eye and his young wife's unborn child, he repulses the first posse sent to bring him in. After this violent, embittering brush with the law, the wanted man takes a warrior's vow, refuses to speak English, and digs in for a long siege. Ned holds out for years until a crew of outlaws with badges manages to blast him from his mountain redoubt, albeit not before he becomes an immortal legend among his fatalistic people and in the wider world. A mock-heroic tale of culture shock and sudden death along our westering frontier in which the principals (whether red or white) are portrayed as simple-minded primitives.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-684-81152-9
Page count: 592pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 1996


NonfictionIN A NARROW GRAVE by Larry McMurtry
by Larry McMurtry
FictionTHALIA by Larry McMurtry
by Larry McMurtry
by Larry McMurtry