Thursday, 9 June 2011
A man's gotta' do what a man's gotta' do...
“The Conversion of Carne Muerto.” It’s entirely true to the Indian hater form, right down to the typically dehumanizing faux-Indian names that Indian hating authors like to assign Indian antagonists — Carne Muerto, or Dead Meat being the name of the lead Comanche. I suppose it’s better than Nick of the Woods’ Black Vulture (almost certainly better than Niggur Nose, anyway) or The Searchers’ Scar, but only marginally."
Wrote the reviewer and in a later section of his interesting and very well written review, he concluded:
" But all I can really say about this story, is, shit, it’s depressing. Putting a slight spin on the old Indian hating myths seems just about as artistically daring as tweaking Blood Libels and casting them as fresh material."
Suffice to say the comments were many and I of course was there.
I ended up in a running debate with the reviewer, who I must admit knows his stuff, and the comments can all be found on the piece HERE. The up shot of this all is that the reviewer, Ben, has agreed to a skype debate with myself on this very subject, which I intend to release as a podcast - yep The Tainted Podcast is coming back.
One of my comments went - There are (were) atrocities committed by both the whites and the Indians. Ditto both sides have broken treaties and gone back on their word. The Indian wars are a long and complex subject and as well as Bury my Heart by Dee Brown, I suggest you read Blood and Thunder by Hampton Sides. But this is besides the point – I still maintain Reasoner’s story, which I’ve now read, and the movie The Searchers may reflect racist attitudes of the period but are not in themselves intrinsically racist. By the way I can’t find this collection for sale now – Amazon have it as out of stock with no option to order or any indication of new stock coming in.
To which Ben replied - Gary, I’ve been at barbecues. But, yeah, I’ve read both of those books, sir. The Dee Brown book because it’s a classic, and the Sides’ book because, even though it’s got some flaws, I’ve got a Kit Carson and Charles C. Fremont thing going. I don’t see how they’re relevant to this discussion, though. For the Indian hating stuff, I’ve been pointing folks to Richard Slotkins’ three-volume history of frontier literature, Regeneration through Violence, The Fatal Environment, and Gunfighter Nation, as well as Richard Drinnon’s Facing West. There are plenty more, but those are a good place to start. For a more specific critique of the ways the defense of white women translated into policy, there’s Rebecca Blevins Faery’s Cartographies of Desire. And probably most importantly, I’d add Gary Clayton Anderson’s The Conquest of Texas, which deals almost exclusively with the Rangers, and talks at length about the ways Euro-American rape fantasies played out in extermination campaigns.
I must admit I respect the reviewers opinion. However I think he is reading too much into James Reasoner's tale, which was, after all, written to be an exciting noir western story, and in no way can I agree that John Ford's The Searchers is racist.
These days, with political correctness run rife, writing fiction about the American Indian wars is tricky. Indeed my own publisher prefer their authors stay away from this subject. But the debate should prove interesting and hopefully informative for us both.