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Buffalo Wagons Mass Market Paperback – November 15, 1997
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Kelton's story is completely arresting. His characters represent a smorgasbord of Western frontiersmen, and many are not very nice. In fact, more than a few are thieving, murdering sociopaths.
What is particularly interesting, given the historical bent of the book, is the extreme measures these men went to, and the incredible hardships they endured to "get rich." Truly it makes one wonder about men! Were these buffalo hunters/frontiersmen the exception? Or were all early Western men this aggressive, rugged, tough, and brutal?
Kelton, as always, is so very gentlemanly in his treatment of romance and women, and this book is no exception. After his main man rescues a maiden in distress who'd been kidnapped by Indians, Kelton handles the romantic aspect of the book very traditionally. Thankfully, he included a touch of romance, or the story might have stalled despite the bloody tale he tells. It also helped give a touch of decency and humanity to several of the characters, making them all the more likeable, otherwise their blood lust for buffalo hides would have rendered them just as bad as the true antagonists in the book.
It describes one of the most odious professions (mass buffalo slaughter) from the point of view of the hunters themselves. They do it because it is one way to make a living during tough economic times.
The personal interactions between the good guy (Gage) and the outrageously bad guy (Ransom) are very realistic, and one can see parallels in one's own interpersonal interactions.
I read chapters 8 and 9 twice, one right after the other, and then read the whole book again.