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Friday, 26 June 2009


Broken Trail
Alan Geoffrion
Pinacle import £7.99

I very much enjoyed Walter Hills' movie Broken Trail which had Robert Duvall in the starring role. So much so that I snapped up the source material for the film as soon as I saw it looking back at me from the rapidly shrinking western section at my local Borders - (Borders Llantrisant - you need to get some new westerns in at once.)

The author is a friend of Duvall (They are pictured together below) and wrote the novel with the actor in mind for the part of the aging cowboy, Print Ritter who with his nephew Tom who set out to drive a herd of unshod horses to Wyoming to sell to the British who are desperate for good horses to send out to their troops fighting the Boar War.

On their eventful trip they save a group of Chinese girls who are destined for the many brothels springing up on the frontier. The pair, together with the girls, and a tragic cowboy named Billy they face up to everything the trail has to throw at them - Indians, bad weather, sickness and outlaws.

There is much more background given to the Chinese girls in the novel than transferred to the screen and there is also a scene set during the Boar War that highlights the amount of horses the British were losing on the battlefield. As in the film it is the character of the aged cowboy that really carries the story forward. It's a great western adventure set very much in the traditional style.

1 comment:

Chap O'Keefe said...

A tie-in to a screen success like this has to be helpful in introducing new readers to books in the same genre. It's likely many public libraries will stock it, too. My only fear is that, looking for more reading in the same vein, the newcomers will be turned off when they pick up a library western that adheres to demands imposed by a far narrower, restricted mind-set. And, increasingly, that is exactly what could happen.

Hale's Black Horse series is now being steered in the fundamental-religious direction taken by US publisher Avalon for years. The Broken Trail Chinese girls' plight would cop an outright rejection. Mr John Hale says: "Our customers are not the public as such but public librarians and needless to say that is why Avalon insist on their books being squeaky clean. They have an even more demanding public library system than we do and one can just imagine what some of their Bible-bashers from the South would say . . . . We are not concerned here with the merits or otherwise of the story."

Hell, I've spent a good part of the past 45-plus years with the obviously misguided idea that the story's merit is precisely what fiction-writing is about!