cover image The Searchers: The Making of an American Legend

The Searchers: The Making of an American Legend

Glenn Frankel. Bloomsbury, $28 (416p) ISBN 978-1-60819-105-5

John Ford’s classic 1956 western film The Searchers, starring John Wayne, drew inspiration from the 19th-century kidnappings of Cynthia Ann Parker: first as a child by Comanche warriors, and over two decades later—as a wife and mother—by misguided whites seeking to rescue her from her captors and adoptive family. In this powerful dual history, Frankel (Beyond the Promised Land), winner of a Pulitzer in 1989 for his reporting on Israel and the Middle East for the Washington Post, dexterously interweaves the testosterone-fueled Hollywood backstory of the film with the bloody turmoil that too often characterized relations between Native Americans and settlers pushing west. While the behind-the-scenes look at the classic flick is entertaining, the drama of the movie set pales in comparison to Frankel’s riveting depiction of the real-life tragedy, out of which arose an unlikely hero: Quanah, Parker’s elder son and half-Comanche warrior–turned–ambassador of peace, whose existence paved the way for a touching reunion between generations of his Texan and Comanche descendants. Cynthia’s story is one of a heartbroken yet tough survivor, and Frankel’s retelling is a gripping portrayal of a mesmerizing period of American history. B&w photos. Agent: Gail Ross, Yoon Ross Literary Agency. (Feb.)