cover image The Long Journey Home

The Long Journey Home

Don Coldsmith / Author Forge $24.95 (384p) ISBN 978-0-312-8761

Treating readers to yet more meticulous historical detail, Coldsmith's (The Lost Band) latest lengthy yarn is a low-key and uninspiring kind of Native American Forrest Gump. After more than 35 western novels, Coldsmith continues to chart the adventures of peripheral characters who wander through history brushing arms with major figures (this time Olympic track star Jim Thorpe, Will Rogers and Theodore Roosevelt). John Buffalo is a Lakota Sioux sent to a government school as a young boy in the 1890s. Proud of his Native American heritage, he vows to outdo the white man at his own game. Although he is a bright student, John's real success comes as an athlete--he plays football, baseball and track, and dreams of competing in the Olympics and later becoming a coach. Racism, however, derails his Olympic hopes and disrupts his budding romance with a U.S. senator's daughter. John later becomes a horse trainer and actor with a traveling Wild West show, performing around the world. In the 1920s, he travels to Hollywood, where he works as an animal trainer for motion picture companies, but he is never fulfilled by any of these adventures--a return to his Indian heritage is all he desires. John is an agreeable, sympathetic character, but not a compelling one; he is portrayed as a frustrated talent trying to make an ordinary living. Coldsmith's sketches of Wild West shows, early Hollywood and the flu epidemic of 1918 are excellent, but John's minor and unexciting involvement is just a vehicle for a painstaking history lesson. (Feb.)