THE BAD LANDS by Oakley Hall


Email this review


Claim-staking grangers vs. cattlemen--in an elegiac, incandescent 1880s Dakota badlands Western that bears comparison to the greats (Shane, Ox-Bow Incident) that it recalls. As ever, the way to the best water is cut off by prideful fences, so both camps in Pyramid Flat are boiling with righteousness. And at the center is the gristly saga of the rise and fall of Lord Machray, a larger-than-life, poetry-spouting Scottish giant who--funded by a corporation back in Glasgow--stakes a baronial claim and erects a great slaughterhouse in Pyramid Flat with which to do battle against the Chicago meatpacking monopoly. The whole town is rubbed raw by the Scot's vaunting person, his kilts and bagpipe, his giant mansion and highhanded tactics, not to mention their envy about his mistress, the whorehouse's heart-of-gold madam. Hall's theme is not a new one: the settlers destroy the very freedom they occupy--exploring the Indians, the buffalo, the game animals and wild fowls, the free grass. But the wind of inspiration sweeps through all the characterizations (the action is seen through the eyes of Andrew Livingstone, a banker-widower from New York who is towering Machray's friend and foe), and the scene-setting could not be bettered. A tale of tragic justice, of nightriders, of horse thieves fighting cattle thieves--the clearest call yet from the sensitive, slicing voice that rang through the west in Warlock.

Pub Date: May 21st, 1978
Publisher: Atheneum