cover image South Wind

South Wind

Don Coldsmith / Author Bantam Books $24.95 (448p) ISBN 978-0-5

Although fictional subplots are loosely woven throughout, the sequel to Tallgrass (Coldsmith's 300-year prairie saga) is really a detailed, but slow, history of western expansion in the bloody middle of the 19th century. After the death of his Pawnee wife, white, Princeton-educated trapper Jed Sterling is back in Kansas in 1846 with a new wife, a black slave he bought in New Orleans. Jed and Suzannah are deeply in love, but their interracial marriage is cause for concern as Bloody Kansas becomes the staging ground for pro- and antislavery violence. For the next 30 years, we see the Sterlings and a dozen other characters caught up in the small extremities of American history. A Union family is driven from its Missouri home by border ruffians. A widow and a soldier find love amid the bitterness of guerrilla warfare. A newly freed slave couple and a Swiss immigrant find new lives in the West. A rancher and his sons lead a cattle drive to Kansas railheads for the first time. The ""Orphan Trains"" bring children from eastern cities to work on prairie farms. An Army surgeon rides with Custer. While most of the characters surface and then quickly disappear, the intriguing historical vignettes prove yet again Coldsmith's appeal as a reteller of history. (June)