SWIMMING MAN BURNING by Terence Kilpatrick


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Kilpatrick drops a strangely original, sometimes moving episode into the post-Civil War West. When he was twenty, Clay married the Indian maiden Fleet Fawn, who was butchered during a cavalry raid. Years later, taken prisoner during an Indian attack, he persuades his captors that he is their brother, and several combined tribes send him off to lead a delegation of four Indians to meet with the Great White Father in Washington, D.C. The real object of their mission is espionage: the Plains Indians intend at last to see into the hearts of the Whites, learn the enemy's most intimate secrets, so that the Indians can wage a final and all-out war that will drive the Whites forever into the lands east of the Mississippi. How the delegation survives for months in the capital while waiting for U. S. Grant to see them, how they peer into the face of every White they meet in that vicious city--this is the heart of the saga. As the humor grows richer, so does the sadness and dignity amid moments of slapstick, particularly a one-eyed Indian's request (granted) for a blue glass eye so that he can spy better on Whites. And the slide into tragic melodrama is handled with zest and invention, leaving vivid, near-mythic images of feathers and red faces against the Capitol dome.

Pub Date: June 3rd, 1977
Publisher: Doubleday