cover image American Meteor

American Meteor

Norman Lock. Bellevue Literary (Consortium, dist.), $15.95 trade paper (208p) ISBN 978-1-934137-94-9

Lock's latest historical reimagining (after the time-traveling Huck Finn novel The Boy in His Winter) follows an orphan from Brooklyn to the Battle of Little Big Horn, where he irrevocably alters history. Listening to the "clamor of my heart," 13-year-old Stephen Moran enlists in the Union Army as a bugler. His time on the battlefield comes to an abrupt end at the Battle of Five Forks, where he loses an eye, kills a Confederate soldier, and receives the Medal of Honor. While recovering, Moran meets Walt Whitman, who gets him assigned as bugler for Lincoln's funeral train to Illinois. Thus begins Moran's lifelong roving of the West, his spiritual restlessness set against the backdrop of westward-driving America%E2%80%94a wild, malformed place that's really Moran's primary antagonist. After riding the nascent railroads and apprenticing for photographer William Henry Jackson, Moran ends up as the personal photographer for General Custer, his story culminating in a bloody finale during Custer's Last Stand. The crafty Moran is a perfect everyman: his na%C3%AFve, directionless unrest gradually cleaves from the irresponsible aggression of Manifest Destiny, for which Custer becomes a figurehead, and focuses into something far more wise, as readers witness. Likewise, Moran's tall tale is a perfect fit for Lock's storytelling: this feels like a campfire tale, an old-fashioned yarn full of rich historical detail about hard-earned lessons and learning to do right. (June)