POWDERKEG by Leo V. Gordon


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 Screenwriter Gordon and historian Vetterli team up effectively to produce an absorbing Western in which the open-air action is nearly overshadowed by politics and by personalities--from Brigham Young to James Buchanan to Wild Bill Hickok. President Buchanan's fierce, fervent desire to preserve the Union at all costs is put to the test by a conspiracy of southern senators, cabinet members, and high-ranking army officers. Political disorder in the Utah territory has provided these southern sympathizers with an opportunity to divert federal forces and then build a new alliance of slaveholding states from the Carolinas to California. The President is forced to send a large force under General Albert Sidney Johnston to quell the supposed insurrection of Utah's Mormons. Mormon leader Brigham Young, however, has no intention of following the southern scenario. Enlisting lapsed Mormon gunfighter Porter Rockwell, Young wages a guerrilla war on the federal troops without firing a shot. Rockwell's wits and winter's early arrival successfully force the big army to halt short of its goal of Salt Lake City. The lapse in action gives Rockwell time to sort out his feelings for a pretty Scottish immigrant, the first woman to thaw him out since his wife died in childbirth. Back in Washington, the scheming politicians, including Jefferson Davis, find that Young's strategy has begun to turn public favor to the Mormons and that Texas hero and Mormon sympathizer Sam Houston has gotten the President's ear and the pro- South plan is unraveling. Very well done. Much action, fascinating politics, complex characters, and historical figures who speak English rather than history. Clean but never sappy.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1991
ISBN: 0-89141-435-5
Page count: 368pp
Publisher: Presidio/Random
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1991