Dust Devils

Robert Laxalt, Author University of Nevada Press $16 (120p) ISBN 978-0-87417-300-0
Steeped in the culture of Basque-Americans and the Western states where they reside, Laxalt (Sweet Promised Land; The Basque Hotel) has produced 13 books set in his native Nevada. This surprisingly thin and textureless account of cowboy Ira Hamilton's coming of age in the early-20th-century Eastern Sierras focuses not on the Basque communities but on the tribes of Paiutes who lived in the stark and lonely hills. Motherless since birth and partly raised in the family of Paiute chief Black Rock Tom, Ira is best friends with Tom's son Cricket and eventually falls in love with Tom's daughter Thoma. The match spells trouble on the Hamilton ranch, since bellicose Mr. Hamilton, who is convinced of the superiority of the white man, wants Ira to marry the daughter of a neighboring rancher. When Ira and Cricket ride off in pursuit of the rustlers who stole Ira's prize Arabian pony, there can be no doubt that Ira has earned the right to choose his own mate. In underscoring his theme of racial tension, Laxalt draws thick, simple battle lines between father and son, old and new: his younger generation is all Disney innocence, Mr. Hamilton pure flint. Although Laxalt's prose is as beautiful as ever, plot rather than character sustains this predictable novella, which might be suitable for YA readers, though even that audience may feel it lacks emotional intricacy. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 09/01/1997
Release date: 09/01/1997
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