THE WILD GIRL: The Notebooks of Ned Giles, 1932

Jim Fergus, Author
Jim Fergus, Author . Hyperion $23.95 (368p) ISBN 978-1-4013-0054-8
Reviewed on: 03/28/2005
Release date: 04/01/2005

Depicting the dusty Depression-era West this grandly, cinematically imagined sweat- and bloodstained saga, inspired by events that took place in Arizona and south of the border in the Sierra Madre badlands, dramatizes latter-day conflicts between whites and Native Americans. During the fall of 1999, an obscure, financially struggling photographer, Ned Giles—now in his early 80s—sells, for $30,000, La Niña Bronca , his only copy of a photo of a young Apache girl lying on the rude floor of a Mexican jail cell; the buyer's curiosity about the picture's provenance sparks Ned's memories. The rest of the book, set in 1932, reveals a legacy of heroism and lost love through Ned's scrupulously detailed diaries, which vividly recount a nightmare of harrowing misadventures beginning the day he signs on to be a part of the Great Apache Expedition, one of dozens of men hoping to free the son of a wealthy Mexican rancher kidnapped by the Apaches. (The wild Apache girl will be used as ransom.) The narrative unfolds as a series of flashbacks, intermingling short passages from the third-person POV of the fierce Apache girl and first-person excerpts from the diaries of the 17-year-old Chicagoan photographer on his first big assignment. Fergus (One Thousand White Women ) makes unforgettable characters move against vivid landscapes in this laudable encore. Agent, Al Zuckerman at Writers House . 5-city author tour . (May)

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