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ON TREACHEROUS GROUND: Secret Stories of the American West

Earl Murray, Author
Earl Murray, Author . Forge $24.95 (384p) ISBN 978-0-312-86922-9
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The author of more than 40 novels, most of them about the American frontier, Murray (South of Eden) displays his intimate knowledge of the people and events that shaped the West in this unusual collection of short stories spanning the last two centuries. The Old West is evoked in atmospheric tales like "Hangtown," starring Mexican banditos who raid gold camps in the Sierra Nevadas, or "Untold Glory," which chronicles a showdown between Sioux Indians and U.S. soldiers escorting pioneer wagon trains through the Rockies. "High on Windy Water" and "Gulls in the Snow" turn to modern-day usurpers of Western land, taking aim at real estate encroachment and corrupt environmental regulators. The ongoing battle over land use and historic site preservation, particularly Indian tribal sites, is dramatically rendered in "Sacred Stone," the story of a renegade Indian woman who, disguised in a blonde wig and evening dress, sabotages a mining company planning to destroy her childhood home. Other tales are drawn from even more recent headlines; the Columbine High School shooting merges with the World Trade Center attack in "Aftermath," while "On Treacherous Ground" looks at the threat posed by heavily armed white separatists dug into rural areas of the West. With his usual adroit storytelling, Murray communicates his love for the West while championing the victims of its early expansion and condemning the villains of today. (Apr.)

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