cover image Cry of the Hawk

Cry of the Hawk

Terry C. Johnston. Bantam Books, $17.5 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-553-08936-3

Set primarily on the high plains during the 1860s, this novel has the epic sweep of the frontier built into it. Unfortunately, Johnston (the Sons of the Plains trilogy) relies too much on a facile and overfamiliar style. Add to this the overly graphic descriptions of violence, and readers will recognize a genre that seems especially popular these days: the sensational western. The novel opens in the year 1908, with a newspaper reporter Nate Deidecker seeking out Jonah Hook, an aged scout, Indian fighter and buffalo hunter. Deidecker has been writing up firsthand accounts of the Old West and intends to add Hook's to his series. Hook readily agrees, and the narrative moves from its frame to its main canvas. Alas, Hook's story is also conveyed in the third person, thus depriving the reader of the storytelling aspect which, supposedly, Deidecker is privileged to hear. The plot concerns Hook's search for his family--abducted by a marauding band of Mormons--after he serves a tour of duty as a ``galvanized'' Union soldier (a captured Confederate who joined the Union Army to serve on the frontier). As we follow Hook's bloody adventures, however, the kidnapping becomes almost submerged and is only partially, and all too quickly, resolved in the end. Perhaps Johnston is planning a sequel; certainly the unsatisfying conclusion seems to point in that direction. (Aug.)