Rendezvous

Richard S. Wheeler, Author Forge $23.95 (352p) ISBN 978-0-312-86319-7
The first eight Barnaby Skye novels (Sun River, etc.) were set in the 1850s and '60s, when the middle-aged mountain man ranged over the far west. This ninth novel leaps back to 1826, when Skye first sets foot in North America. As an unwilling seaman pressed into service in Britain's Royal Navy, Skye is kept at sea for seven bitter and miserable years. Driven by his desire for freedom, he jumps ship at Fort Vancouver, Oregon Territory, and heads into the wilderness alone, on foot and ill-equipped. Pursued, starving and lost, Skye nevertheless finds the will and the means to survive in the merciless outdoors. He learns his fieldcraft by watching animals and from friendly Indians who take him to the great rendezvous of 1826, a ribald annual gathering of American fur trappers in the mountains of northern Utah. To the coarse mountain men, Skye is a novelty, a hulking, proud ""English pork-eater"" with a gigantic nose and a funny accent and the incomprehensible desire to go to college in Boston. The trappers admire his courage, though, since no other tenderfoot has ever crossed the Pacific Northwest to the Rockies alone and survived. With mentors like Jim Bridger, Bill Sublette and Jim Beckwourth, Skye realizes that life in the free, open space and beauty of the mountains offers seductions and pleasures that Harvard doesn't. The Spur Award-winning Wheeler, after the subpar Flint's Gift (Forecasts, Aug. 9), returns to good form with this adventure tale of his enduring frontier hero. (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 12/01/1997
Release date: 12/01/1997
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