The Return of Henry Starr

Richard Stolkin, Author, Richard Slotkin, Author Atheneum Books $24.95 (535p) ISBN 978-0-689-11811-1
Our mythologizing of the Old West is the theme of this epic novel about an Oklahoma outlaw who eventually immortalizes his own career in the silent movies. The eponymous hero Henry Starr, half-Cherokee nephew of Belle Starr and grandson of one of the last great Indian leaders, nourishes his imagination on dime novels celebrating the exploits of historic desperados like Jesse James and on tales of the golden age of the Cherokee nation and its defiance of the white man. But, coming of age at the turn-of-the-century, he sees the Cherokees broken in spirit and prey to vindictive government agents and greedy white landowners and bankers. Inspired by his criminal ancestors, his reading and his anger at abuses of the Indian, Starr embarks on a bankrobbing spree that earns him status as a legend. As the story opens, Starr is in prison waiting to be hanged. He is released, though, and many years later, wins fame as the star of a silent-film series based on his criminal career. While imaginatively reliving his past, Starr becomes victim of his own mystique to the point where he ""couldn't see clearly where the made-up parts left off and the life began.'' Pursued by the ghosts of his past, he resumes his earlier criminal vocation. Historian Slotkin (The Crater) renders sharply observed period detail and speech in a rich, often lyrical prose especially engaging for history buffs. Although slow-moving, this lengthy saga is certainly provocative in the way it explores the siren song of our frontier myths. (April)
Reviewed on: 04/01/1988
Release date: 04/01/1988
Genre: Fiction
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