DEATH RATTLE by Terry C. Johnston


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Eighth and possibly final installment in Johnston’s Northwest wilderness saga (Ride the Moon Down, 1998, etc.) featuring a now-aged, bone-weary Titus Bass, a mountain man and trapper who will hang onto his old ways under the Big Sky where he’s spent his life trapping buffalo and then beaver. But now even the beaver are gone, or else those at hand won’t repay risk of life nor the effort to capture, skin, and carry them to a trading post. Titus experiences a deep running-down throughout the present story, although the death rattle is also for a way of life trampled under the incoming hordes of town-builders and civilizers. As Titus puts it: “A man either figures he can live all crowded up with folks—with trouble a constant shadow lurking just outside his door . . . or he sets his sights on taking those he loves off away from the shove and clutter or so many others.” As it has had for so many others, Spanish California holds a lure for Titus, who joins some friends bent on raiding the large horse-and-mule ranches and running off with plenty of the overabundant livestock to offer to fur traders beyond the Mojave. There’s danger behind as Mexican soldiers chase them, and ahead as murderous Digger Indians lie in wait. After a spell in the Rockies, where, sadly, the whole culture has changed, Titus joins the “Taos Rebellion,” which leads to the greatest dismay of all. Bleak as winter rain, but a wide readership awaits Titus, a character cut from rawhide.

Pub Date: Dec. 7th, 1999
ISBN: 0-553-09084-4
Page count: 448pp
Publisher: Bantam
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 1999


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