The Shadow of the Tomahawk is a novel so forgotten it had to wait 93 years to be published in book form. It first ran as a serial in Adventure in 1920 and 21 and was finally given new life last year.
Members of the Western APA (Amateur Press Association) OWLHOOT (you know who you are) have raving about this Hugh Pendexter guy, but this was my introduction to his work, and I'll be eagerly looking for more. And thanks to Tom Roberts and Black Dog Books, it won't be hard to find. This book is one of five volumes now available in the Hugh Pendexter Library, and there are more on the way.
Pendexter, I was pleased to learn, was the author of nearly eighty novels, so I have a lot to look forward to. The Shadow of the Tomahawk involves a time and place in American history that I know very little about, but the novel's narrator, frontier scout Basdel Morris, took me into his world, introduced me to the players, the conflicts and the landscape, and left me the wiser for it.
The story takes place on the Virginia frontier of 1774, with the British still trying to control their colonies and having very little luck. The guys back in Parliament want peace with the Indians, but folks on the frontier know that's no longer an option. There have been atrocities committed on both sides, and reasonably objective observers like Basdel Morris know there's plenty of blame to go around.
There are still settlers who just want to get along, and still some tribes that are friendly. But there are hotheads whose sole ambition is to exterminate all Indians, and warchiefs who are determined to eradicate all the colonists infesting their hereditary territory. Our hero Basdel represents the voice of reason, but when the pampered city girl he loves - and her know-it-all father - head toward the frontier preaching peace, he must turn to the fiercest of Indian killers in an attempt to save their scalps.
Pendexter was known for his historical research, and recreates a world that rings true in every respect. Through his characters and dialogue, he brought the past to vivid life. Based on my brief acquaintance with him, I'm tempted to call him the Bernard Cornwell of the last century.
The other books now available in the Hugh Pendexter Library are Red Trails (a related novel set ten years after this one), The Shorthorn Kid (a collection of western stories), According to the Evidence (the collected adventures of The Bureau of Abnormal Litigation), and Along the River Trail (a novel featuring a mountain man at the time of Jim Bridger). For ordering and other info, visit the Black Dog Books site HERE.