Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Taps at Little Big Horn

By John Benteen
Piccadilly Publishing, November 2014

First published by Leisure Books, 1973

It was the fall of 1875 and all the Plains tribes were at peace. The best Cheyenne hunting grounds were under Army control. But then General Custer found gold in the Black Hills and set out to stir up a war to save his prestige. 

Sundance got involved when Custer locked him into a filthy prison for four months, and when he got out, his hatred for Custer was like a burning flame. Sundance was all Cheyenne when the Indians faced Custer – he vowed to have his revenge, and if he did, Custer would never leave Little Big Horn alive. 

Like the majority of the early Sundance books this one is based on fact, mixing a fictional hero with historical fact and real people seamlessly. Most of the story deals with events leading up to the Battle of Little Big Horn.

You don’t need to have read the previous Sundance books to get full enjoyment from this one as John Benteen includes a fair amount of Sundance’s back story, in this case mostly told by George Crook, who is one of Sundance’s close friends, one he fears he may have to face over a gun before long.

Sundance also has some powerful and far reaching decisions to make. He’s offered a way to perhaps stop the coming Indian war, but this could mean giving up his woman, Barbara Colfax, whom he met in the first book of the series: Overkill.

Benteen’s descriptions are excellent, particularly a frantic struggle to travel through snow and trying to survive a blizzard that threatens to freeze to death those caught in it.

Of course we all know how the historical elements of this fast-paced tale have to end but it’s witnessing how Sundance finds himself facing Custer that made this story for me. There’s double-cross to deal with, lots of life or death situations, brutal action, and a tension filled jail-break. All told in Benteen’s griping, gritty prose that defies you to put the book down before the last word is reached.

John Benteen is a pseudonym used by Ben Haas and I’ve yet to come across a western by him that isn’t worth reading.

1 comment:

Oscar Case said...

Another fine novel I haven't read. Fine review too.