jueves, 29 de marzo de 2018

The Apache Wars

The Apache Wars (Broadway Books, 2017)
by Paul Andrew Hutton
USA, 2016

Outstanding narrative history of the Apache wars and the resulting "trail of blood" (2) left during the contest for control of Apachería (i.e. Arizona, New Mexico, and parts of Texas on one side of the present day border and Sonora, Chihuahua, and Coahuila on the other) c. 1861-1886.  While loosely organized around the life stories of one semi-legendary Apache and one white captive raised among the tribe, University of New Mexico history professor Paul Andrew Hutton's rich, compelling text is such that it's easy to understand why one pro reviewer was moved to gaudily but not inaccurately champion the work as "an epic tale filled with Homeric scenes and unforgettable characters."  That being said, I should stress that Hutton's nonfiction song of rage prob. isn't for the faint of heart even at this far remove from the succession of tragic events described.  Mass quantities of massacres, mutilations and revenge killings rarely make for easy reading, of course, but even the one short paragraph dedicated to scalping techniques here was just a little TMI for me.  Still, a great read both for its bullet point insights into its cast of characters' character--the territorial governor of New Mexico: "The highest dictates of humanity demanded [the Jicarilla Apaches'] extinction" (75); Geronimo: "I have killed many Mexicans.  I do not know how many, for frequently I did not count them.  Some of them were not worth counting" (304)--and for the cruel ironies to be found hidden among the storytelling rubble on the canyon floor (Hutton points out that "more than a third of [General] Sheridan's soldiers," those intent on removing the Apaches from their native lands in 1885, were actually, "like the general himself, foreign-born immigrants to the United States" [355]).

Paul Andrew Hutton

martes, 6 de marzo de 2018

The Big Knock-Over

"The Big Knock-Over"
by Dashiell Hammett
USA, 1927

Farfetched but commensurately high-octane crime caper frantically putting the pedal to the metal of the idea of 150 crooks gathering from across the country to pull off an audacious double bank robbery in broad daylight in Prohibition-era San Francisco before succumbing to the inevitable double-cross as the body count mounts.  I liked it.  From a writing standpoint, I enjoyed the tough guy humor & verve of both the pulp similes--"the room was black as an honest politician's prospects" (372)--and of the borderline parodic high testosterone moments like this one: "She was neither tall nor short, thin nor plump...  She was probably twenty.  Her eyes were blue, her mouth red, her teeth white, the hair-ends showing under her black-green-and-silver turban were brown, and she had a nose.  Without getting steamed up over the details, she was nice.  I said so" (365, ellipses added).  From a sociological standpoint, I was even more tickled to see that what the narrator cheekily refers to as a Who's Who in Crookdom (374) matter-of-factly includes blacks, whites, mulattos and various shades in between as apparent gangland equals--crime as the great American melting pot?  Whatever, not a bad way to while away the time and an entertainment whose thrill ride features are complicated by a morally ambiguous narrator and enlivened by some newly minted slang imported from the jazzbo and gangster worlds.  Hep.

"The Big Knock-Over" bloodily graces pages 364-393 of the new Hammett anthology The Big Book of the Continental Op (New York: Vintage Crime/Black Lizard, 2017) edited by Richard Layman and Julie M. Rivett.