Richard S. Wheeler, Author . Forge $27.95 (380p) ISBN 978-0-312-87846-7

From the prolific recipient of the Owen Wister Award for his lifetime contribution to western literature comes this latest unashamedly revisionist fiction suggesting that legendary explorer Meriwether Lewis's mysterious death in 1809 at age 35 was a suicide in response to his raging third-stage syphilis. Told alternately in the voices of Lewis and his fellow-explorer William Clark, the narrative follows the divergent lives of the two men after they return triumphant from their expedition in 1806. Under the guise of concern for his ailing men, Lewis—a scholar, scientist and confidant to Jefferson—secretly consults a physician and confirms he has contracted syphilis. He travels to Washington to bask in praise and collect the promised governmental remuneration for himself, Clark and their company. After both men are awarded 1,600 acres of public land, Lewis goes to St. Louis in 1808 as governor of the Louisiana Territory, and Clark—newly married to his 16-year-old cousin—follows, becoming superintendent of the nation's Indian affairs. The novel particularly focuses on the enigmatic decline of the once brilliant Lewis, who most likely suffered from syphilis-induced dementia at the end of his life. Wheeler bases his story on the recent research of Seattle epidemiologist Reimert Thorolf Ravenholt, who has argued that Lewis contracted the disease during his stay with the Shoshone. Short on action and long on psychological realism, the book should be appreciated by lovers of Western history and lore. (June)

Reviewed on: 05/13/2002
Release date: 06/01/2002
Mass Market Paperbound - 384 pages - 978-0-8125-7771-6
Paperback - 384 pages - 978-0-7653-0876-4
Prebound-Sewn - 978-0-613-70743-5
Ebook - 384 pages - 978-1-4299-8225-2
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