The Conversion of Carne Muerto by James Reasoner from On Dangerous Ground: Stories of Western Noir

May 25, 2011
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On Dangerous Ground Ed Gorman Dave Zeltserman Martin H. Greenberg Cemetery DanceReviewed by Benjamin Whitmer

When I got the email from Brian Lindenmuth asking me to take part in a group review of the stories in a western noir anthology, I’ll admit I got pretty excited. Those are two things near and dear to my heart, and I could think of all kinds of interesting avenues for this hybrid genre to take.

Then I read the story assigned me, “The Conversion of Carne Muerto,” by James Reasoner. And that excitement died real quick, as I realized it was a minor variation of one of the ugliest stories in American literary history: that of the Indian hater. And that I was gonna have to explain exactly why I disliked this story so thoroughly, and that it was gonna take me a lot of words.

Following, I give it a shot. I hope you’ll bear with me. Most of the information has been ripped off whole-hog from Richard Slotkins’ Regeneration through Violence and Gunfighter Nation, Richard Drinnon’s Facing West: The Metaphysics of Indian-Hating and Empire-Building, and Gary Clayton Anderson’s The Conquest of Texas: Ethnic Cleansing in the Promised Land. Hopefully I reworded and condensed everything enough to avoid the plagiarism charges I’m sure I deserve.

Colonel John Moredock

Though the story is older, running all the way back to Puritan writings, the Indian hater story was first introduced as such by a little-remembered Cincinnati author by the name of Judge James Hall in 1829. This flagship incarnation was first given us in The Westward Souvenir entitled “The Indian Hater.” It was the usual mess of racist fantasy posing as frontier reportage that made Judge James Hall’s literary career. In it, the protagonist’s family gets massacred by Indians and he’s taken captive. In captivity he becomes convinced that Indians are incapable of civilization, and, in his own words: “I made it a rule to kill every red skin that came in my way, and so long as my limbs have strength I shall continue to slay the savage.” That Hall is sympathetic to the protagonist’s mindset goes without saying; at one point Hall even explicitly compares him to Jesus Christ.

“The Indian Hater” was so popular that Hall actually reprised the narrative five times, even expanding the archetype into a full-length novel, Harpe’s Head. His most influential version, however, occurred in the quasi-historical figure of John Moredock, entitled “Indian hating. —Some of the sources of this animosity.—Brief Account of Col. Moredock” published in 1835. Though the tale itself is pretty much only remembered for being lampooned by Herman Melville in The Confidence Man, the basic tenants of Indian hating have consumed American popular culture since, providing a crippling national mythology which has been America’s foundational confidence game.

In the Colonel Moredock tale, however, Hall does us one service. He gives us the manner of Indian hating’s dissemination:

Every child thus [on the frontier] learns to hate an Indian, because he always hears him spoken of as an enemy. From the cradle, he listens continually to horrid tales of savage violence, and becomes familiar with narratives of aboriginal cunning and ferocity . . . With persons thus reared, hatred towards an Indian becomes a part of their nature, and revenge an instinctive principle.

Indian Hating is, in other words, a virus spread by narrative; it’s the constant proliferation of Indian-hating tales that cause it. And, actually, Hall’s tale would almost seem like a criticism of the Indian hating narrative but for one fact: all of his ruminating on the metaphysics of Indian Hating is only the preface to an Indian Hating narrative of his own: that of Colonel John Moredock.

Nick of the Woods

In its next popular incarnation, Robert Montgomery Bird’s Nick of the Woods published in 1837, Indian hating is taken a step further. Far from describing Indian hating as a being caused by stories told in Euro-American frontier families, Bird makes the argument that by showing the Indian as incapable of civilization and deserving of extermination, he is presenting readers with reality itself. As he writes in the preface, his novel was written during a period when,

the genius of Chateaubriand and of Cooper had thrown a poetical illusion over the Indian character; and the red men were presented – almost stereotyped in the popular mind – as the embodiments of grand and tender sentiment – a new style of the beau-ideal – brave, gentle, loving, refined, honourable, romantic personages – nature’s nobles, the chivalry of the forest . . . The Indian is doubtless a gentleman; but he is a gentleman who wears a very dirty shirt, and lives a very miserable life, having nothing to employ him or keep him alive except the pleasures of the chase and of the scalp-hunt – which we dignify with the name of war.

Of course, this is one of the oldest and longest running straw man arguments in the United States. One has to wonder if Robert Montgomery Bird actually read any of James Fenimore Cooper’s The Leatherstocking Tales. Though it is true that a very few Indians are romanticized – and only because they cast their lot with Euro-Americans – almost all of them are indistinguishable from the rapacious vermin found in Nick of the Woods or the works of Judge James Hall.

But, like Hall, Bird also gives us one of the invaluable keys to the makeup of Indian hating:

The single fact that [the Indian] wages war — systematic war — upon beings incapable of resistance or defence, — upon women and children, whom all other races in the world, no matter how barbarous, consent to spare, — has hitherto been, and we suppose, to the end of our days will remain, a stumbling block to our imagination.

This charge, that the Indian is the only race on earth that wages war against women and children, is the core of the Indian Hating story. Bird didn’t invent it – you can even find it in the United States’ Declaration of Independence – but no one has been more influential in spreading it in popular culture.

And, of course, it’s horseshit on its face. The history of Euro-American military engagement with American Indians has been an unbroken lineage of warfare on women and children from Manhattan to the mass graves at Wounded Knee. You can’t take into mind the Mystic massacre of 1637, the systematic braining of the Christian Delawares at Gnadenhutten , the winter campaigns of Phil Sheridan and George Custer, the Texas Rangers’ long history of indiscriminate butchery , or the Sand Creek massacre, wherein the Colorado First Volunteer Cavalry slaughtered an entirely peaceful camp and then made trophies of women’s genitalia to parade through Denver, without giving the lie to Bird’s assertion.

Then there’s the irony of Bird’s making any claim to realism at all, given the singular silliness of his actual novel. It’s the story of a Kentucky knight errant, Roland Forrester – knight of the forest, get it? – and his meeting with a schizophrenic Quaker superhero, Nathan Slaughter, who, though an erstwhile pacifist, spends the majority of his time butchering the local Shawnee and hacking crucifixes into their chests. Fair swooning damsels and swarthy rapists abound, as they tend to do. And, as is always the case in these novels, the soft-hearted Easterners, Roland and his fair damsel, are educated in the natural savagery of Indians, for which they must be exterminated.

Actually, the plot seems pretty irrelevant to Bird, serving as little more than a skeleton to drape with some of the most ingenious racist lingo ever put to paper. There’s “’tarnal-temporal, long-legged, ‘tater-headed paint-faces,” “bald head, smoke-dried, punkin-eating red-skins,” and, my personal favorite, a “niggur-in-law to old Satan.” I’m not even sure what the hell that last one means, but there’s no doubt it’s a bad thing.

All of these orgiastic proclamations of racism finally culminate in a climactic act of copulation, as Nathan Slaughter confronts the evil Shawnee leader, Black Vulture – otherwise known as “Niggur Nose” – in a tremendously unsubtle description of the homoerotic joy to be found in racial slaughter:

The knife took the place of the hand, and one thrust would have driven it through the organ that had never beaten with pity or remorse; and that thrust Nathan, quivering through every fibre with nameless joy and exultation, and forgetful of everything but his prey, was about to make. He nerved his hand for the blow; but it trembled with eagerness.

The irony of Bird’s claim of realism seems to have escaped his audience, however. Nick of the Woods was hugely successful, and remained in print throughout the twentieth-century, though often refashioned as a boy’s adventure story, with the “niggurs” edited into “savages.” It’s even referenced in Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn. And, of course, those who haven’t read The Leatherstock Tales still like to sit around opining about the all-too-romantic Indians invented by James Fenimore Cooper.

The Searchers

Which brings us to The Searchers, which Reasoner is most directly referencing in his story. Though some cinephiles have spent the last 50+ years going through impossible contortions to excuse John Ford’s genocidal epic, The Searchers, Ford’s tale is little different that of Hall or Bird. While it is true the protagonist is presented as somewhat excessive in his Indian-hating, the underlying argument as to the inherent savagery of the American Indian is left entirely intact.

The movie follows the Indian hater Ethan (Amos in the Alan LeMay novel by the same name, which the movie follows closely) and his sidekick, Mart, as they track down a Comanche band who annihilated Ethan’s brother’s family and took the female children into captivity. The tension of the novel resides in the fate of the youngest female captive, Debbie. As she gets older, it becomes likelier and likelier that she’ll become contaminated by sexual contact with the Comanche. As Lucy, Mart’s sweetheart makes the argument in the book – which is replicated almost verbatim in the movie:

“She’s had time to be with half the Comanche bucks in creation by now.” Laurie’s voice was cold, but not so brutal as her words . . . “It’s too late by many years. If they’ve got anything left to sell you, it’s nothing but a – a rag of a female – the leavings of Comanche bucks” . . . “Do you know,” Laurie said, ‘what Amos will do if he finds Deborah Edwards? It will be a right thing, a good thing – and I tell you Martha [Deborah’s mother, who was raped and killed] would want it now. He’ll put a bullet in her brain.”

The point is made again in both the novel and book. About midway through each we’re introduced to a collection of white women who’ve been raped into insanity by their captors. “It’s hard to believe they’re white,” says one of the cavalry men who rescued them from captivity.

“They’re not anymore,” Ethan responds.

The tension created by Lucy’s looming gang-rape is embodied in the figure of Mart. In the novel, he is adopted, his entire family have been slaughtered by the Comanche, an act which has contaminated him such that he’s is torn between the savagery of the Comanche world and the civilization of the Euro-Americans. The movie tweaks this to some degree, adding an extra layer of racism by making Mart part Indian himself. Because, according to the conventions of the Indian hating genre, a drop of Indian blood can contaminate even the best Euro-American stock, one is led to wonder what side Mart will take as the narrative unfolds: will he commit to killing Debbie with Ethan/Amos, or join up with the Comanche if she is found to be married to an Indian buck? It’s a conflict that’s never really resolved, as in both the novel and the movie, Debbie is found unspoiled.

Whatever conflict Mart may feel about killing Debbie, he is resolutely educated out of any conflict he may feel about killing Indians via a series of Comanche assaults on white femininity. In the novel’s Indian-hating manifesto, which echoes Roland Forrester’s nearly identical epiphany at the end of Nick of the Woods, and which Easterners are led to by Hall, Mart proclaims:

“I see something now,’ Mart said, “I never used to understand. I see now why the Comanches murder our women when they raid – brain babies even – what ones they don’t pick to steal. It’s so we don’t breed. They want us off the earth. I understand that, because that’s what I want for them. I want them dead. All of them. I want them cleaned off the face of the earth.”

He’s learned what Ethan/Amos has been trying to tell him all along: that this is a war of genocide, and that one side must be exterminated.

Of course, the gap in this lesson is fairly simple to glean: all Euro-Americans have to do to end this war of extermination is to stop invading Comanche land and, well, cease attempting to wipe them out. The Comanche have no such recourse. They’re fighting for their homes; they have nowhere to go.

But there’s another gap in both the movie and book, and that lies in the historical pretext for The Searchers. The novel is based on the real-life abduction of one Cynthia Ann Parker, who was taken at age nine by the Comanche. The hitch being that when the Texas Rangers, led by Captain Sul Ross, rescued Parker as an adult, butchering her adopted Comanche family in the process, she wasn’t exactly receptive to her reinstatement into Euro-American culture. She repeatedly tried to escape back to her Comanche people, and finally, when her half-Comanche daughter died of a “civilized disease,” refused food until she’d starved herself to death.

Moreover, the attack on the Parker Fort which resulted in Cynthia Ann Parker’s abduction was hardly the unwarranted attack on peaceful settlers described in both the novel and the movie. The Parker Fort was a staging ground for Ranger raids, including two raids on peaceful Wichita villages, which were completely wiped out.

And, most striking of all, is that in contrast to the Euro-American obsession with the defilement of white women, there is no evidence at all that any of the woman taken from the Parker Fort had been raped. In fact, the Comanche had strong cultural taboos against rape, just like the Shawnee, and pretty much every other Indian nation on the continent. A lot of those peoples had been fighting wars that included the taking of captives for a long time, and rape just seems to be one of the things they agreed to do without. Though Euro-American accounts automatically assumed sexual assault in the case of white women taken captive by Indians, actual evidence of rape occurring is most notable by its nonexistence – a trope that runs all the way back to Mary Rowlandson’s captivity narrative of 1682.

Not that said nonexistence has ever managed to stifle the grisly imagination of Euro-America historians. Such as T.R. Fehrenbach, who, while writing about the Comanche raid on the Parker Fort, tells the reader, “There was never to be a single case of a white woman being taken by Southern Plains Indians without rape.”

“The Conversion of Carne Muerto”

Which brings me to the short story I’m supposed to be actually reviewing, “The Conversion of Carne Muerto.” It’s entirely true to the Indian hater form, right down to the typically dehumanizing faux-Indian names that Indian hating authors like to assign Indian antagonists — Carne Muerto, or Dead Meat being the name of the lead Comanche. I suppose it’s better than Nick of the Woods’ Black Vulture (almost certainly better than Niggur Nose, anyway) or The Searchers’ Scar, but only marginally.

I’ll try to avoid spoilers. But, then, if you’ve read the last couple of thousand words, you probably don’t need any. Carne Muerto is a Comanche taken prisoner as a teenager by the Texas Rangers and brought back to the fort. He’s been injured, and the story’s narrator, the camp doctor, takes a certain amount of pity on him, though not much.

Unfortunately for everybody involved, there’s a woman around. And, of course, she’s an Easterner, who has yet to learn the ways of the frontier. Something which starts up a discussion between her husband and Colonel John Ford (and, no, I’m not making that up). To give you a taste of it:

“Colonel, you can’t lock that prisoner up,” a woman’s voice said. “It would be inhumane. Why, he’s nothing but a boy, and he’s hurt!”

I looked around and saw the young woman with copper-colored hair, followed closely by the lieutenant, who looked worried and upset. He said quickly, “Begging the colonel’s pardon, we don’t mean to intrude—”

“Then don’t, Lieutenant Patrick,” the colonel said, not bothering to conceal his irritation at this interruption.

Still trying to fix things, the lieutenant said, “It’s just that Julia is new to the frontier and doesn’t understand—”

“I understand perfectly well, Bartholomew,” she said. “I understand that this poor young man needs help, and it’s my Christian duty to give it to him.”

Captain Ford said, “Ma’am, I believe in the Lord, too, but I’m not sure He’d want you getting mixed up in this.”

Long story short, Juliana decides to take Carne Muerto into her house to let him recuperate, and teach him Christianity in the process. And if you can’t figure out how her act of Christian charity ends up, then there’s not a whole lot else I can do for you.

Anybody who has read my novel Pike knows I’m not exactly brimming with politically correctness. Hell, my favorite western right now is Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian, which ain’t a book known for its finer sensitivities. And I’m certainly not one to argue that protagonists must be likable. But all I can really say about this story, is, shit, it’s depressing. Putting a slight spin on the old Indian hating myths seems just about as artistically daring as tweaking Blood Libels and casting them as fresh material.

And, as always, one can’t but be reminded of all the arguments about African American rapaciousness used to justify the KKK lynchings of the late nineteenth and twentieth century. The major difference, of course, being that outside of isolated spots like Stormfront.org, you don’t see those being bandied about much anymore. When it comes to American Indians, however, they’re still as standard as white bread.

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115 Responses to The Conversion of Carne Muerto by James Reasoner from On Dangerous Ground: Stories of Western Noir

  1. Ben on May 29, 2011 at 7:00 pm

    Well said, ma’am. I’d thought of that and tried to read the story in that way. The problem I ran into was twofold:

    1. Her motivation for taking him in is inspired by pity for the wound he’s taken, and fear that he’ll be locked up in the guardhouse to suffer. That he’s just a boy, and he’s hurt, and it would be inhuman. Her words.

    2. The only authentic act we get from Carne Muerto is the rape. Everything else he does in the story, he does because he’s coerced. In which case, it’s hard not to read that that is his heritage: rapaciousness. And as such, it’s hard not to read her as sympathetic for trying to divest him of that quality.

    I very much appreciate this, by the way. For all the hubbub, this is the first time someone’s addressed the actual story in any detail.

    I’ll be on and off the internet for much of the evening, b the way, so I’m not dodging you if you have more; it may just take me a little time to answer.

  2. gary dobbs/Jack Martin on May 30, 2011 at 10:24 am

    You said to my last comment
    “I don’t think that the movie shows the Comanche as “a proud nation unable to cope with the inevitable rush of the changing world” speaks to its value. That’s another of the oldest and most vicious tropes going in literature about Indians, usually used after the fact to justify some act of genocide. Even ignoring its racism, it’s a cliché, and not a very smart one.”

    And I reply – it is very much the story of a modern, more advanced nation believing that they are working for the greater good and ignoring the rights of, what they see as, a lesser people. It’s happened throughout history and my argument is that John Ford in making The Searchers, and James Reasoner in writing his story, have a duty to reflect that attitudes and actions of the times through the characters. And Searchers is not a racist film. Please point me to the reasoning for you calling the film racist. Which scenes trouble you the most? The film has to connect with the audience and tell the story, so in many ways the films better reflects 1950’s general attitudes than those of the Old West. You are taking the film on face value – the Indians are demonised by certain characters especially Wayne’s but the reality is that this happened during the period of Westward expansion.

    You said you enjoyed the book, The Searchers – is this different in tone to the film, do you think?

  3. Ben on May 30, 2011 at 10:51 am

    No sir. The book’s even more racist than the film. I enjoy the film very much as well, by the way. But, like I said, I enjoy lots of things that I have to admit have serious flaws. As I also said, I don’t call it racist because of the way the characters reflect the values of their time — I think that’s important and laudable.

    But the string of white women raped and/or murdered by the Comanche is not a reflection of characters’ attitudes. It’s given us objectively — the women are raped and/or murdered. That’s ahistorical, and little more than an example of John Ford’s own psychosexual pathology. And racism.

  4. gary dobbs/Jack Martin on May 30, 2011 at 1:23 pm

    There are atrocities committed by both the whites and the Indians. Ditto both sides have broken treaties and gone back on their word. The Indian wars are a long and complex subject and as well as Bury my Heart by Dee Brown, I suggest you read Blood and Thunder by Hampton Sides. But this is besides the point – I still maintain Reasoner’s story, which I’ve now read, and the movie The Searchers may reflect racist attitudes of the period but are not in themselves intrinsicly racist. By the way I can’t find this collection for sale now – Amazon have it as out of stock with no option to order or any indication of new stock coming in.

    Regardless the recent news that Richard Curtis is to remake, The Searchers with Ethan now once again Amos as in the original book, only this time Amos becomes more tolerant and marries a squaw and becomes a spokesman for Indian affairs. He is eventually raped and butchered by a drunken prospector.

  5. Ben on May 30, 2011 at 7:44 pm

    Sorry, Gary, I’ve been at barbecues. But, yeah, I’ve read both of those books, sir. The Dee Brown book because it’s a classic, and the Sides’ book because, even though it’s got some flaws, I’ve got a Kit Carson and Charles C. Fremont thing going. I don’t see how they’re relevant to this discussion, though. For the Indian hating stuff, I’ve been pointing folks to Richard Slotkins’ three-volume history of frontier literature, Regeneration through Violence, The Fatal Environment, and Gunfighter Nation, as well as Richard Drinnon’s Facing West. There are plenty more, but those are a good place to start. For a more specific critique of the ways the defense of white women translated into policy, there’s Rebecca Blevins Faery’s Cartographies of Desire. And probably most importantly, I’d add Gary Clayton Anderson’s The Conquest of Texas, which deals almost exclusively with the Rangers, and talks at length about the ways Euro-American rape fantasies played out in extermination campaigns.

    Also, I find the moral equivalency in this statement, “There are atrocities committed by both the whites and the Indians,” unconvincing at best. As I remarked earlier, in a census taken around the turn of the 20th century, there were 237,000 Indians left alive in North America. And this from a population that’s estimated to have run somewhere between 12 and 25 million, according to current scholarship. That’s one of the greatest demographic disasters in the history of the world, and includes entire peoples wiped from the face of the planet. Of course, there were many causes of this, but one primary cause was a military tradition of extirpative warfare that ran all the way back to the 17th century, and was adopted by the US military. My favorite recent book on that is military historian John Grenier’s The First Way of War.

    And, yeah, there were cases where Indian nations broke treaties. But the US broke every single one of the 371 treaties it made. Not some, not even most, every single one. Likewise, it’s worth remembering the near total loss of ancestral land. (As a side note, every single violation of a treaty was a violation of the US Constitution, as Vine Deloria reminds us in his Tribes, Treaties and Constitutional Tribulations. Something which I never hear the Tea Party bringing up when they’re doing their song and dance.)

    So, yes, I agree that there were Indians who did horrible things. Some raped, murdered, and were downright nasty bastards. But, as a commenter on my blog noted recently, I’ll bet you could find cases where, say, a Jew raped a German woman. And there were plenty of nasty bastards in that population – there are in every population I know of. But I don’t buy that as a justification for the European Holocaust.

  6. gary dobbs/Jack Martin on June 1, 2011 at 5:24 am

    I am not trying to justify, what you call the European Holocaust, but it’s not as clean cut as it would seem to appear. I mentioned the Hampton Sides book because it does reflect, I feel, the way Indians were viewed by the early European settlers and that is my point – because The Searchers (one of the finest movies ever made) reflects this as its main narrative drive it is not racist as , ie – propaganda. No one, but a fool, would deny that there were many wrongs committed against the Indian peoples. Before there was any white settlement in America, Indian tribes were committing great acts of violence against each other- The word Apache translates in many Indian languages as Enemy. I do agree that the story of the American Indians and their conquest is both tragic and shameful, a time of aggressive conquest by the whites, but any story/film which that reflects this is not racist in itself. You see going back to your original review of Reasoner’s story you seemed to take the stance that it was nasty and only of interest to an Indian hater (your term not mine), and you seemed to suggest that the views of the characters were shared by the author – now that’s what troubles me the most and it is also hurtful to the author.

    So let’s get a few points in order.

    We both agree that the historical story of the settlement of America was a dark period in American history.

    The whites view of the Indians was simply wrong as was, for the large part, their actions towards these people. However it’s not as clean cut as that and whether, you buy it or not, there were many aggressive acts carried out by the Indians, many agreements with the whites broken.

    Now in your review you wrote

    – “It’s entirely true to the Indian hater form, right down to the typically dehumanizing faux-Indian names that Indian hating authors like to assign Indian antagonists”

    – This to me is simply a nonsensical statement and does suggest that the author of such is an Indian hater. That makes the review more of an attack because of subject matter, rather than the story itself. And this my friend is political correctness and that, of course, is censorship.

  7. gary dobbs/Jack Martin on June 1, 2011 at 8:59 am

    And John Ford racist????? I think not – Cheyenne Autumn

  8. Ben on June 1, 2011 at 7:28 pm

    I don’t think we’re gonna convince each other on John Ford. As I keep pointing out, my problem ain’t with the viewpoints of the characters – it’s with the actions of the Indians objectively given us. I.e., if the only thing Indians do in your work is rape white women, you’ve probably got a problem.

    But I’m curious about another couple of points. You say, “there were many aggressive acts carried out by the Indians, many agreements with the whites broken.” I said that was a false equivalence, as the aggressive acts committed by Indians were usually individual, and usually deliberately exaggerated to prop up extermination campaigns. I’ve listed about seven books on that point, including one dealing specifically with the Comanche and Rangers. (I can relist them if you like, but they’re all above.) Have you read some contemporary work that suggests otherwise? What Indian aggression on whites can you point me to that matches the continued extermination campaigns from Mystic in 1637 up through Wounded Knee in 1890? And in what source did you find it?

    Likewise, with the treaties. As I pointed out, the US broke every single one of the 371 treaties it made with Indian nations. I pointed to Vine Deloria Jr.’s Tribes, Treaties and Constitutional on that point. What list of treaties broken by Indian nations can you point me to that’s in any way equivalent? Or what book have you read that suggested that to you? I’m not an expert on this stuff, but I live in the West, I’ve read some on the subject, and even used to teach it a little for the University of Colorado. I don’t believe I’ve ever come across a statement like that anywhere, except in pulp novels and really outdated historical works (and always without specifics).

    The same question to another blanket statement you made: “Before there was any white settlement in America, Indian tribes were committing great acts of violence against each other.” That’s another old trope used to justify extermination that runs all the way back to John Filson’s 1784 Daniel Boone narrative/land scam brochure The Discovery, Settlement and Present State of Kentucke, and before. But as I understand it, it’s been pretty much debunked. Which is not to say that Indians didn’t have wars, they did, but they were nothing like the wars that plagued Europe in the same time period. In fact, most early settlers were appalled at the Indian peoples’ lack of martial spirit. Francis Jennings quotes several of them in his Invasion of America. John Grenier’s The First Way of War, which I referenced in the last post, says the same. Another source of the same is Charles C. Mann’s 1491, which is a pretty good recent synthesis of the latest anthropological finds vis-à-vis North American Indians.

    Maybe you’re just reading different books, but I’d curious to know what they are, and what specifically they have to say on these subjects.

  9. gary dobbs/Jack Martin on June 2, 2011 at 10:52 am

    ok – let’s rock and roll.

    Firstly I am finding this debate interesting and do not want to come back half cocked so give me a couple of days to gather references to strengthen my argument, which I must add I am enjoying and you are obviously very knowledgeable on the subject. However before we continue and go off on a tangent I think it is important that we both understand that I am not denying that the greatest blame in the Indian wars rests with the whites, though not all of it does. And I initially came here to defend James Reasoner who, your review, suggested was an indian hater. Now the story was intended as a pulp style noir tinged western and not an examination of the actual historical period. Perhaps you are reading too much into it.

    But let’s debate and I thank you for giving me a subject to get my teeth into. I will be back…soon.

  10. Ben on June 2, 2011 at 10:54 am

    Sounds good, sir. And I’ll be the first to admit that I am very capable of reading too much into things.

  11. Ben on June 2, 2011 at 1:01 pm

    If you’re planning on being at Bouchercon, I’d also be more than happy to buy you a beer and continue the conversation there.

  12. gary dobbs/Jack Martin on June 2, 2011 at 6:18 pm

    I wish I could be at Bouchercon but alas I am UK based. You know I was thinking we could do our debate by Skype – it would make a great podcast. And it’ll have to be a virtual beer.

  13. Ben on June 3, 2011 at 9:48 am

    Man, I like it. Tell you what, give me until June 30 to kill my current book deadline and write up a couple of blurbs for folks, and then email me if you’re still interested. benjamin.whitmer@gmail.com

  14. M C Funk on June 3, 2011 at 4:31 pm

    Smashing idea, cowboy fans.

  15. gary dobbs/Jack Martin on June 9, 2011 at 7:31 pm

    Will do – sounds great