Wednesday, July 29, 2020

#37: The Unforgiven by Alan LeMay

 A hardscrabble cattle family, living in near isolation and beset by marauding Kiowas, find their fortunes turn for the worse when a poisonous rumor starts about their youngest child in Alan LeMay's The Unforgiven.

I picked this up for a western fiction book club I joined online, and was caught by surprise.  I did not know of LeMay, or that he had also written the novel The Searchers (which was turned into the great John Ford movie).  I also did not realize this novel was made into a (seemingly ill-fated) John Huston movie as well.

Most of all I was surprised by the mature, nuanced storytelling, genuinely surprising for a western, and for one written in the 50s.  I was unprepared for the depth of the narrative (last month's book club read was a poker-faced, PG-rated Louis L'Amour western) and had to keep flipping back to the copyright notice to absorb that it was actually written during the 1950s.

After building mounting dread throughout, the third act is an absolutely harrowing--at times gruesome--siege of the family home by a group of Kiowas who believe the adopted daughter of this ranch family is actually a lost Kiowa child, a somber coda.

Recommended on all counts for western fans looking for a literate entry in the genre.

I bought this from Amazon and immediately went looking for The Searchers.

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