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Crow Killer: The Saga of Liver-Eating Johnson (Midland Book) Paperback – August 22, 1983

4.5 out of 5 stars 200 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

..". warrants a place on any shelf of Western Americana." San Francisco Chronicle, reviewing a previous edition or volume"

"Spectacular to repellent, this is a part of Western life as it must have been..." Kirkus Reviews, reviewing a previous edition or volume"

..". [Johnson] emerges as flesh and blood, with the emphasis on blood. His story is the material from which grand opera might be made." Saturday Review, reviewing a previous edition or volume"

"It s a robust story, almost incredible a saga of hardship, cruelty and terrible dangers through which John Johnson, tough and shrewd as he undoubtedly was, did not emerge unscathed. This is the stuff of folklore at its authentic best." New York Times Book Review, reviewing a previous edition or volume" --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Review

"Spectacular to repellent, this is a part of Western life as it must have been..." ―Kirkus Reviews, reviewing a previous edition or volume



"... warrants a place on any shelf of Western Americana." ―San Francisco Chronicle, reviewing a previous edition or volume



"It’s a robust story, almost incredible―a saga of hardship, cruelty and terrible dangers through which John Johnson, tough and shrewd as he undoubtedly was, did not emerge unscathed. This is the stuff of folklore at its authentic best." ―New York Times Book Review, reviewing a previous edition or volume



"... [Johnson] emerges as flesh and blood, with the emphasis on blood. His story is the material from which grand opera might be made." ―Saturday Review, reviewing a previous edition or volume

--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Product Details

  • Series: Midland Book
  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Indiana University Press (August 22, 1983)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0253203120
  • ISBN-13: 978-0253203120
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (200 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #203,747 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jim Tenuto VINE VOICE on August 1, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The movie "Jeremiah Johnson" found some of its inspiration and history in the true life adventures of John "Liver-Eatin'" Johnston. As tough as Jeremiah was, he can barely hold a candle to the tough mountain man who ate the livers of his vanquished foes.

The feats of survival, tracking, and hunting boggle the mind. While the authors draw from oral history (and perhaps have been taken in with some broad embellishments), the remarkable vengeance Johnston extracts from the Crow tribe for the death of his wife and unborn child is staggering. The Crows, troubled by Johnston's relentless vengeance, dispatch 20 warriors on a mission to find and kill the tribe's nemesis. Over a period that spanned over a decade the solitary Crows fall to Johnston. He killed them all.

This is not a book for the politically correct...the book originally appeared in the 1940s. Don't expect to confront descriptions of other races that include hyphens.

For those who have read the Dan O'Brien books, THE CONTRACT SURGEON and THE INDIAN AGENT, there is a reference to Valentine T. McGillycuddy. For fans of the HBO Original Series DEADWOOD, "Colorado" Charlie Utter warrants several mentions.

An interesting read for those who harbor any admiration for the real pioneers.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I suppose that most people find their way to this book through the movie,Jeremiah Johnson. It is a great film and one of Redford's best.
The book is a fascinating look at the real life model for Jeremiah Johnson, John Johnston. His story is essentially compiled from the oral tradition of the old west augmented by interviews with people who knew Johnston (or alleged to know him.)
Some of the stories are fantastic and should be taken with a grain of salt but it does suggest that only a very unusual(and dangerous)individual succeeded as a mountain man. The romantic notion of the old west is replaced by an environment that is hostile and unforgiving. The map provided is hand-drawn but gives a sense of what must have been involved for settlers attempting to cross that portion of the country.
I enjoyed this small volume very much and found it ironic that Johnston wound up being buried in a cemetery in Los Angeles (what an insult!)
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Regardless of whether it is truth, legend, fiction, or myth, Crow Killer is a good read for those interested in the old west and the life of the mountain men. Much better and bigger than the movie (just as Johnson was much bigger than Redford) with vivid action and great descriptions of the times. Some people seem concerned with the lack of documentation, however word of mouth and story telling were the documentation methods of the times for red and white men alike. A good read. If you liked the movie you'll enjoy the book.
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I don't consider myself an avid reader. If a book loses my interest for a moment, I may not finish it. I found "Crow Killer" difficult to put down. Can't remember why I bought this book but I am sure glad I did. I'm sure some of the tales are embellished a little but if you are interested in this subject at all, it's a must read. For me it really puts things in perspective. Reading this book makes one realize how easy most of us have it. It was not long ago that there was a much more durable people inhabiting the planet. Forced to deal with a unfriendly, harsh, wild environment. Either you were skilled at taking care of yourself or you perished. Johnson and his friends were a fascinating breed of men. This book is like a time machine and was therapeutic from the "don't sweat the small stuff" standpoint. After reading this I realize I have things pretty darn good.
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Format: Paperback
This little volume of what professes to be pure history contains the exploits, along with a good many stories that probably aren't true, of the Mountain Man John Johnson. Some of these stories are almost definitely true--Johnson's battle with the twenty Crow warriors over fourteen years, for example. Still, some of these tales are more than likely fictitious, made-up accounts passed on among the last Mountain Men until Thorp stumbled upon them.

For sources, Thorp has few, and they are second or third-hand at best. Most of them were old men who were trying to remember stories or `things they'd heard' a half-century before. Even Thorp's principal source, "White-eye" Anderson, was getting most of his information third-hand. Thorp proclaims his source as impeccable, but even he can't help but include, in the course of the narrative, that White-eye had a famous capacity for "story-telling."

So why give this any stars at all? Well, it IS fun to read. A lot of these stories are just plain entertaining, and Johnson's war against the Crows is based in fact (in fact, this account is probably fairly accurate). No matter what, you can get a good look at the late Mountain Man era by reading about Johnson (and his companions') exploits. Of course, sneaking up on Indians and massacring them does get quite dull even after less than two hundred pages, so fortunately this book isn't longer.

All in all, this is an entertaining read. It isn't written very well, and the author's attempts at dialect are horrendous, but it is still a lot of fun. Just bear in mind that this little book, history though it proclaims to be, is probably as much Mountain Man myth as anything.
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