Greasy Grass

Johnny D. Boggs. Five Star, $25.95 (266p) ISBN 978-1-4328-2710-6

Countless books have been written about Custer and the Battle of the Little Big Horn in Montana in June 1876, and Spur Award–winner Boggs (Summer of the Star) adds yet another perspective to this famous Old West fight. Boggs’s approach uses the fictionalized narratives of historical participants, and although not an original idea, he carries it off beautifully with vivid accounts from the 7th Cavalry soldiers and the Sioux and Cheyenne Indians, as Custer foolishly leads his men to their deaths in a wild melee of crashing gunfire and arrows. The story tells of the U.S. Army’s campaign to bring the Indians to battle, as well as Sioux chief Sitting Bull’s premonition of the upcoming fight, and Red Cloud’s frustration over the white man’s broken promises and treaties. Through the characters’ words, Boggs also reveals the bitter feelings, rivalries, and hatred between Custer and his seniors and subordinates, along with several soldiers who have a palpable sense of impending doom. The battle scenes are described in all their bloody savagery. The highlight is Boggs’s portrayals of Capt. Frederick Benteen and Maj. Marcus Reno and their surviving cavalrymen during the battle, and the two officers’ futile efforts to avoid blame afterward. This novel contains no new historical scholarship, but it does effectively paint a grim, gory, and realistic image of Indian warfare, period racism, and the political scapegoating that usually occurs after a military disaster. (Dec.)