As we navigate through the cascade of impacts from COVID-19 and the effort to quell its spread, I’ve been thinking a whole lot about the unfathomable impact disease had on the First Nations peoples in North America.
“Novel” viruses tore through native populations like tornadoes.
Smallpox in particular had an absolutely devastating effect on native societies. I guess we have a better inkling now what that must have been like — though the mortality and disruption we are experiencing is a mere fraction of what happened over and over again from the 17th century into the 20th for the indigenous peoples of the Americas.
It}s not just a historical phenomenon, either. The Navajo Nation is raising funds on GoFundMe because they are unprepared to fight COVID-19. This virus could rip through reservations, and underlying morbidities could make it especially devastating.
If you want to trek down a very pleasurable side trail, chalk out the Gabriel Dumont Institute of Native Studies and Applied Research Virtual Museum of Metis History and Culture.
As readers of my book Warriors of the Wildlands know, Gabriel Dumont was one of the great Frontier Partisan native resistance leaders of all time. One of my very favorite Frontier Partisans.
One reason to look forward to summer is the hope that this plague will hopefully be behind us, even if the hangover effects are not.
Another reason is that James Carlos Blake will be out on July 7 with another novel — The Bones of Wolfe. Longtime Frontier Partisans know that JCB cloverleafs his shots in the x-ring of Frontier Partisan fiction.
In the newest Wolfe-family adventure from James Carlos Blake, Rudy and Frank Wolfe are engaging in routine miscellaneous business—some legitimate and some less so—for their family when they stumble upon a stash of high-quality pornographic films in a raid. The plot thickens when their Aunt Catalina, the family matriarch aged 115, recognizes her long-lost sister in one of the young performers. Catalina tasks the boys with tracking the girl down, however improbable a connection may be.
This proves to be no simple task. Soon, Rudy and Frank find themselves moving away from world of porn and towards the upper echelons of the Sinaloa drug cartel, where the mysterious woman has become a particular favorite of the head narco. For their aunt, the woman, and themselves, Frank and Rudy must find a way to get her out without alerting the cartel. A tropical storm complicates their quest, but their sprawling family may save them from this obstacle, too.
Often outrageous and always entertaining, the Wolfes are not to be missed.
Over the top? Perhaps. But as Tim Willocks says of Shakespeare:
I also love the incredible boldness of his plots. He wasn’t afraid of anything, no matter how absurd. Richard III is a preposterous story in a dozen different ways, but he didn’t give a fuck: and it works brilliantly. He wasn’t shackled by modern notions of motivation and plausibility; he was only interested in truth, action, the human soul, especially at its darkest. And his audience had the stomach for those truths, whereas we seem like sheep trembling inside a fence built of comforting lies.
Speaking of bold plots…
Pride of Eden is everything it oughta be. I absolutely love Taylor Brown’s writing — he’s right there in Blake’s and Willocks’s class — and it’s wedded to a ripping yarn. Synchronicity was heavily at play here, as Brown himself can tell you:
Crazily enough, my novel Pride of Eden, set on a fictional big cat sanctuary on the Georgia coast, released the same day as the Netflix miniseries Tiger King, which follows the feud between zoo owner Joe Exotic and Florida’s Big Cat Rescue:
“A zoo owner spirals out of control amid a cast of eccentric characters in this true murder-for-hire story from the underworld of big cat breeding.”
Since then, Tiger King has taken mainstream culture by storm, and I’ve been receiving multiple messages per day asking if I knew/know about Joe Exotic and the series.
The answer is definitely yes — it’s hard not to research big cat breeding in America without his name coming up. However, I only came to know the full arc of his story in 2019, late in the process of revising the book. There’s a wonderful Wondery podcast on the subject, Joe Exotic: Tiger King, which I highly recommend.
I have not yet watched Tiger King, mostly because Marilyn and Ceili refuse. When I get a free afternoon, I will.
In any case, I’m ripping through Pride of Eden like Sherman’s Bummers through Georgia (sorry Taylor) and I think y’all will dig it. If I may make so bold, please consider ordering it from Paulina Springs Books. They could really use the traffic right now. If not that, order from your own favorite indie.
I am hot on the trail of an all-time badass Frontier Partisan Warrior that until recently I knew nothing at all about. I hate it when that happens. I love it when that happens.
Talking about the Seminole leader Coacoochee or Wild Cat. Ran across him in the forthcoming Texas Ranger history Cult of Glory. Wild Cat led an exodus of his people, including a number of Black Seminoles to a new promised land in Coahuila Mexico, where slavery was outlawed — and where he could set up a headquarters for cross-border smuggling and/or banditry.
Bands of Seminoles, who found refuge in Coahuila after they were driven from Florida by the U.S. Government, also forded the river to plunder. Some were under the sway of Wild Cat, also known as Coacoochee, a tall, charismatic chief who had led the flight to Mexico. Wild Cat embodied the white man’s idea of the Noble Savage. He made the occasional visit to Texas towns, speaking English and bowing to the ladies. “His whole attire had the rather un-Indian merit of neatness,” wrote Cora Montgomery — the pen name for Jane Cazneau, a former mistress of Aaron Burr’s who now found herself on the border. “A row of crescent-shaped silver medals, arranged in something like a breast-plate, glittered on his breast and he had good arms,” she wrote. “Perhaps he read Byron.”
Needless to say, I love this swashbuckling figure, who fought at least one pitched battle against Texas Rangers in the service of his adopted country, and I am determined to learn all about him. Watch this space…
Speaking of pirates…
Like many folks, I’ve been escaping into Story even more than usual these past couple of weeks. I found myself drawn back to STARZ’s pirate epic Black Sails. Season 3 and 4 in particular are really outstanding. Here is an example of how you can create strong female characters in a historically male-dominated environment without turning them into proto-feminist anachronisms.
Also, this is how to serve up diversity authentically and organically without making a fetish of it. You could hardly find a more diverse environment than the maritime frontier of the Caribbean in the early 18th century, and that diversity is well-depicted and fully integrated into Black Sails.
Once again, we must venture Beyond The Black River into the borderlands of myth, legend and history. Keith West of Adventures Fantastic has published a very fine three-part guest post by Texan John Bullard tracing the Texas frontier origins of the magnificent Robert E. Howard Conan tale.
Beyond The Black River — Is It Really Beyond The Brazos River
First rate work.
Stop the bloody presses!
I had just hit “post” on this month’s Trapline when what should come trotting across the moors but a band of Border Reivers under the command of Robert Low.
In the space between nations, nothing is out of bounds.
1542. For centuries the Scottish and English borders were known as the Debatable lands: wild, lawless, and the province of reivers, tight-knit robber families that roamed and pillaged the remote passes without fear…
Fifteen-year-old Mintie Henderson has just seen her father murdered. With the Scottish King newly dead and an army of hired reivers on the march, justice is in short supply. Then she comes across Batty Coalhouse: one-armed and hard as nails. Together they will set out on a journey of revenge.
But they are soon caught up in something bigger, a tale of Mary Queen of Scots and King Henry VIII. Stuck in the heart of a tempest, they know only one way to get out alive…
I corresponded with Low back in the old days of The Cimmerian blog. He’s an ardent historical reenactor, a veteran war correspondent and a hell of a yarn-spinner.
The Border Reivers were, as most of you know, the bloody-handed ancestors of the Scots-Irish who disproportionately set the culture of the early American frontier. Talk about your Continuity & Persistence…
The title refers to the ritual by which the women of a Reiving household would let their menfolk know that the larder needed replenishing. They would serve up a platter of spurs, which conveyed the message that it was time to mount up and go steal somebody’s cattle.
Looks like this one is e-book-only, which is a bit of a bummer, but I ain’t passing it up.