Monday, November 03, 2008

The White Buffalo, by Richard Sale

(hb; 1975)

From the inside flap:

"At the center of [this] story are two very different heroes: the nervous, elegant and deadly master of triggernometry who has come to the Wyoming Territory in the wake of General Custer under an assumed name and who is really Wild Bill Hickok -- scout, gunman, a living legend -- in pursuit of his last adventure; and an Indian, 'Worm,' Nadonaissioux mieyebo, soon to be called Crazy Horse, one day to fight at Little Big Horn.

"The two men share the same dream: to kill (or be killed) by the last of the great white buffaloes, whose mystical presence haunts them both. Their search for this fabulous (and all too real) creature takes both men through the lonely highlands of the West in its last days of wildness; to small towns full of impoverished gold rushers, whores and killers; to Army camps; to the high mountains and grassy plains and Indian settlements, until finally the two most legendary figures of the West -- Hickok and Crazy Horse -- meet in a stunning and terrifying climax before the maddened charge of the White Buffalo himself."


Review:

Sale intertwines legends, great characterizations, action and an exciting -- if dying -- era into resonant and unique storyline. Making this story even more thrilling is Sale's use of semi-poetic turns of phrase and interesting Old West-related facts (which don't slow the pace of the story one whit). This is, hands-down, one of the best (and most original) Westerns I've ever read.

By all means, check this out.

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The resulting film was released stateside in May 1977.

Charles Bronson played Wild Bill Hickok (aka, James Otis). Jack Warden played Charlie Zane. Will Sampson played Crazy Horse (aka, Worm). Clint Walker played Whistling Jack Kileen. Slim Pickens played Abel Pickney. Kim Novak played Mrs. Jenny Schermerhorn (aka, Poker Jenny). John Carradine played Amos Briggs (an undertaker). Shay Duffin played Tim Brady. Ed Lauter played Tom Custer. Martin Kove played Jack McCall.

J. Lee Thompson directed the film, from a script by source-book author Richard Sale.

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