cover image Ride the Moon Down

Ride the Moon Down

Terry C. Johnston. Bantam Books, $23.95 (448pp) ISBN 978-0-553-09082-6

Roughcut, venerable mountainman Titus Bass is back in Johnston's seventh installment (Crack in the Sky) in the bloody adventures of the free-spirited Rocky Mountain fur trapper. Here Johnston fills seven years (1834-1840) with exploring, beaver trapping, Indian fighting, whiskey drinking, man-killing and other mountain mayhem. At 40, Bass is getting a little old for this line of work. Half-bald from a scalping, half-blind and scarred from bullets, arrows, tomahawks and knives, Bass embodies the decline of the once-booming fur trade. With his beautiful Crow Indian wife, Waits-by-the-Water, and two small children, Bass rides across New Mexico, Utah, Colorado and Wyoming in search of the ever elusive beaver, refusing to believe that his way of life is disappearing. Between the annual revelry of the trappers' rendezvous, Bass faces horse thieves, feuding Frenchmen and swarms of Indian enemies, as well as the bitter enmity of his Crow brother-in-law, Strikes-in-Camp, and the scourge of smallpox. As usual, Johnston carefully weaves together history and legend: here the backdrop is the business rivalry of the two remaining fur companies and the ribald and violent antics of frontier heroes like Jim Bridger, Kit Carson and Ol' Bill Williams. (Nov.)