Cowboys and Cameras
THE HOLLYWOOD POSSE is the true story of the cowboys who drifted off the range in the teens and '20s to work doing horseback stunts in the movies. The book centers around one member of the Posse, Jack Montgomery, and was written by his daughter, Diana Serra Cary, with just the right blend of descriptive richness, grace, passion and reverence for the past.
The book is full of heroes -- tough, honest, self-effacing cowboys, consummate horsemen who routinely and unflinchingly performed dazzling, dangerous stunts, whether costumed as knights on horseback, cavalry charging, or Indians attacking.
The final chapter alone is worth whatever price a rare-book dealer might charge. Cary recounts an actual incident in which a sixtyish cowboy -- veteran of 30 years in front of the cameras -- is refused work on a picture because he's "too old." Suddenly, a stunt buckboard and team parked among the spectators takes off, a runaway, with a terrified 6-year-old girl aboard. As they race blindly toward a deep ravine, the old cowboy grabs a horse and takes off after them. The ensuing chase, stunningly described, is the most thrilling, heartbreaking and ultimately inspiring example of real-life heroics I've read in many a day.
The Hollywood Posse was published in cloth by Houghton-Mifflin in 1975 -- well before the trade-paperback renaissance of books on the West -- and has been out of print ever since, but a dealer found a copy for me in exactly two weeks. DOUG RAMSDELL New York
On the Trail
GRADUATE business schools might take note of Benjamin Capps' The Trail to Ogallala. A cowboy who has been promised the leadership of a cattle drive from Texas to the rail head in Nebraska has been superseded by the ranch owner's last-minute choice. The new trail boss lacks the necessary management and personal qualifications for a job where his decisions often will be life and death ones.
The young cowboy joins the drive as an ordinary hand. By making subtle suggestions and by planting ideas, he is able to keep the drive on track with a minimum loss of life. At the same time he makes the leader think the crucial decisions are the leader's own. Management trainees learn these things in their business classes from their professors. Here is an exciting case study set in the wide plains of the West.
The Trail to Ogallala is available in libraries and in both hardcover and paperback editions from by Texas Christian University Press. ISABELLA MONTGOMERY Washington
A Survivor's Story
IN 1980 a Justice department attorney discovered Dora, a World War II memoir by Jean Michel, first published in France in 1973. Michel had survived Camp Dora, the compound for slave laborers working in the Nazi factories producing V2 rockets. Maltreatment resulted in the death of 25,000 to 30,000 workers of many nationalities. Appalled by the atrocities described in Dora, attorneys searched World War II archives and discovered that American authorities had ignored, even covered-up, the culpability of the German (later American) rocket scientists. While most escaped accountability through death, belated exposure at least provided a sliver of justice.
Dora belongs on every reading list of the Second World War. The English translation, published by Holt, is out of print. ROBERT HUDDLESTON Mercersburg, Pa.
Mystery and Magic
FRED CHAPPELL's book of poetry Castle Tzingal (available from Louisiana State University Press) is an enchanting fairy tale for wintertime reading. Set in medieval times, the narrative concerns the unfortunate plight of the troubador-poet Marco. He is dispatched from a neighboring province as a goodwill ambassador to the castle of King Tzingal, a loathsome tyrant who rules a ruined kingdom. Marco wins the heart of the forlorn queen but is wrongly accused and beheaded as a spy by the insanely jealous Tzingal. Every detail about Tzingal is vile and corrupt. Can good triumph?
Because the poetry is written in modern words and dreamy scapes, the make-believe is made believable, and the reader is left with the uncommon experience of feeling good at the very end. There are parallels with the modern world but Chappell in fantasy tells us art will always prevail. ED LYNSKEY Warrenton, Va.
IF YOU haven't read The American Senator by Anthony Trollope, first published in 1877, then you should. It contains three very long and lovely stories in one novel: the love of the very quiet and shy solicitor's daughter, Mary Masters, for Reginald Morton, the squire of Hoppet Hall; the very active attempted acquisition of the love of Lord Rufford by Arabella Trefoil, who has been called the best female character Trollope ever created; and the adventures of Senator Gotobed, who is from the Western state of Mickewa.
While each woman has her own style of pursuing her intended, the American senator muddles along, criticizing his English friends even though he is a guest of their country, saying all of the things against England that Trollope himself wants to say, but has to use an American character to express.
The book is available from Oxford in an edition with 'explanatory notes.' If you know nothing about foxhunting, you will learn the meaning of 'covert,' 'skurry, and even 'red herrings.' There are other examples of how the meaning of words has changed -- there are repeated references to one member of a couple as the 'lover' of the other, but these two individuals have yet to shake hands, much less engage in illicit activities.PHILIP H. DETURK Puyallup, Wash.
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