A college football coach fascinated by American Indian history draws contemporary life lessons from the biography of a 19th-century Apache warrior.
Since 2000, Leach (Swing Your Sword: Leading the Charge in Football and Life, 2011) has been in the public view as an unorthodox coach. Here, he collaborates with freelance writer Levy (River of Darkness: Francisco Orellana's Legendary Voyage of Death and Discovery Down the Amazon, 2011, etc.), examining the life and times of Geronimo (1829-1909), who could not have attained his warrior reputation without top-notch leadership skills. Leach's admiration for Geronimo is so broad and deep that the book borders on hagiography. The author admits that Geronimo could be viewed as a coldblooded killer, but the wrongs he and his Apache followers suffered due to a lying American government could have driven any fair-minded individual into a frenzy. Although Leach's research is in large part derivative—yet acknowledged—he does offer some fresh tidbits. Furthermore, his insights into the minds of Geronimo, his leading Apache supporters and the U.S. military commanders trying to corral the warrior feel fresh in both their hypothesizing and their passion. In every chapter, the narrative text is interspersed with pithy "Lessons" set in boldface type. During the mid-1800s war between the U.S. government and the government of Mexico, territory that had belonged to Mexico and Spain ended up as part of the United States. The Apaches, who already resided on that land, did not receive an invitation to the negotiations, and the misunderstandings and bloodshed that followed were widespread. Leach is strongest as a biographer when evaluating the stubbornness among warriors on both sides, which caused them to place territorial control as a greater value than the sanctity of life. After Geronimo's capture and imprisonment, the tale turns maudlin. With Geronimo a shadow of his warrior self, Leach’s lessons ring hollow.
Though the idea behind it is intriguing, the book threatens to topple from the unwieldy mix of conversational U.S. history, biography and self-help.