By Edward M. Erdelac
Texas Review Press, October 2011
In 1874 a boy leaves a comfortable life in Chicago and heads west to work on the burgeoning railroad, quickly finding the labor not to his liking. He joins a disparate group of itinerant buffalo hunters led by a tough old ex-Indian fighter named War Bag Tyler and they pass into Texas to participate in the great slaughter. The season draws to a close and death strikes the outfit. War Bag swears a Cheyenne Dog Soldier from his past is responsible. As War Bag plots a new hunt, a hunt for the Cheyenne, the boy must choose between life and death.
Edward M. Erdelac superbly mixes fact and fiction in a gripping read that is told in the first person. His story is filled with colourful characters that have their own personalities, each with an important role to play in the outcome of this fast moving and well thought out tale. The story mixes humorous banter with life changing lessons for the boy as he experiences the excitement and disappointments of hunting buffalo. Along the way he will meet a handful of real people who will become famous figures in western history.
I wasn’t far into the story before I’d become attached to the main players and, even though the book blurb had prepared me for it, I was shocked at the death of one of these leading characters. How each of the survivors reacted to this provided some fascinating reading as darker sides to some of their personalities began to emerge. Action scenes are described in fairly gory detail, be it the killing and skinning of buffalo or the brutality of an Indian attack.
The title, Buff Tea, refers to…..nope, I’m not going to reveal that here, but will add that I believe all lovers of westerns will really enjoy finding out themselves by reading this book, and like me, will find themselves adding Edward M. Erdelac to their list of favourite authors.