cover image The Wintering Place

The Wintering Place

Kevin McCarthy. Norton, $27.95 (308) ISBN 978-1-324-02048-6

McCarthy follows up Wolves of Eden with another tough tale of the Dakota Territory, one as bloody and visceral as a Sam Peckinpah film. It’s 1867 and Irish immigrants Thomas Sugrue and his younger brother, Michael, are mired in a brutal struggle for survival. Both have fled a murder charge in their home country and served with Union forces in the American Civil War. Tom and his lover Sara—who is half French, half Indigenous, and whom Tom recently liberated from abusive captors by more killings—have just rescued Michael from a near-scalping and sure death following a Sioux onslaught at their fort. Over the next few months, a series of events cast the three in sharp relief against a treacherous environment that is as unforgiving as it is lawless: a deadly encounter with a pair of cutthroat fur trappers, a tense dispute with two Crow braves over rights to a pair of elk carcasses, and a final violent reckoning of unresolved grudges from the past at a frontier trading post. McCarthy effectively alternates chapters cobbled from a journal kept by Michael with stark omniscient accounts, thus combining an intimate tone with an unflinching appraisal of the territory’s harsh terms of engagement. This is a solid entry in the revisionist western fiction canon. (Nov.)