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Book Review - "Buffalo Trail" by Jeff Guinn

The following book review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper.  You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar.

9780399165429_p0_v1_s192x300Buffalo Trail by Jeff Guinn is an action packed historical novel.  Readers will understand the realities of western culture in the 1870s through Guinn’s story and characters, historical notables from the west. The title fits the plot perfectly since it explains the importance of the buffalo to both the Indians and white hunters. 

This story makes the era come alive with vivid descriptions of Dodge City and the Frontier life.  Through the main character, Cash McLendon, one of the few fictional people in the book, the plot unfolds.  He escapes from Glorious, Arizona, on the run from Killer Boots.  Fleeing to Dodge City, he falls in with an intrepid band of buffalo hunters determined to head south to forbidden Indian Territory in the Texas Panhandle. Cash is befriended by Western legends Bat Masterson and Billy Dixon and decides to travel with them to hunt buffalo.  They establish a camp known as Adobe Walls.  His desire is to get enough money to pursue his true love, Gabriella Tirrito.   Unfortunately, the Indians have other ideas, forming an alliance of Comanche, Cheyenne, and Kiowa, targeting the camp to defeat the white man. This is an authentic confrontation that became known as the Adobe Walls battle, one of the fiercest and bloodiest in frontier history. 

Because Guinn wanted to create a realistic atmosphere he noted, “All the descriptions are true.  I want readers to feel the dust blow in their eyes and the fear as the hunters were attacked. In fact, I followed the exact trail of the hunters to Adobe Walls.  In the hardback will be photos for the readers to see the actual figures.  I also showed the accuracy of the Sharps 50 that Billy Dixon shot with, able to get his target from about a mile away.”

What makes the story even more interesting is how Cash is portrayed as someone down on his luck that seems to make the wrong choices.  In the first novel he betrayed his fiancé Gabriella, his true love, to marry into a wealthy family. After his wife dies his father-in-law hires an assassin to kill him.  Escaping to the frontier, Cash drifts through Texas, loses his savings to Doc Holliday, and stumbles into unsightly and dangerous Dodge City. Cash then ends up at the wrong place at the wrong time, trying to survive a vicious Indian attack. Hopefully he learns from his mistakes because he is constantly penalized for his wrong choices. 

There are also the rich characters of real life Indians, such as the Comanche war chief Quanah Parker, Lone Wolf, Medicine Water, and the Dog Soldiers.  But the most intriguing unique figure, was the real life female Indian warrior, Mochi, a Cheyenne woman and Sand Creek massacre survivor who's later accepted into the fierce dog soldier clan. 

Guinn commented to, “Mochi will have to stay in my stories except she will not be in the next book.  Almost everything in this book, from her witnessing the slaughter of her tribe and being wounded to her fighting at Adobe Walls is true.  Although one scene in the book came completely out of my imagination, when she does a courageous and astonishing sacrifice to recon for the Indians.  She is not the type of person that would sit back and be told what to do.  No matter the cost to herself she is determined to get revenge.  I hope I showed Mochi’s desire along with the other Indians to have Adobe Walls where the collision occurred. It is like today with the tribes in the Middle East, the enemy of my enemy is my friend. These Indian tribes united through the common enemy, the white hunters who they saw as a threat to their way of life.”

Buffalo Trail has an action atmosphere that puts readers right into the battle and on the western frontier.  It brings to life the era and the western legends that have fascinated people.  This novel is riveting and filled with action.

The next book in the series, Silver City, according to Guinn, will resolve the original story arc.  It brings closure to Cash/Boots and Cash/Gabriella.  Although Gabriella basically made cameo appearances in Buffalo Trail, with this next book she will be front and center, since much of the story is written from her perspective. Guinn stated that any future stories will have “Cash and Gabriella intrinsically bonded.”