Book Reviews

Raven's Cry / Christie Harris -- Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1993. 194 pp. LCCN 92-23934. ISBN 0-295-97221-1, $12.95.

Raven's Cry is the story of one family's perspective on Haida history. This tragic portrayal of the near destruction of an entire native culture begins in 1775 when young Yatz, in traditional fashion, is sent to live with his mother's family in Haida Gwaii (the Queen Charlottes Islands). The rich culture and exquisite art of the Haida nation is displayed as Yatz grows into his role as chief among the Sdast'a.aas Saang gaahl. As he accepts his responsibilities and claims his place as Chief 7idandsuu, Yatz must come to grips with the changes brought about by the arrival of the first Europeans and the opening of the Northwest coast. He attempts to guide his people as they deal with missionaries, traders, miners, and politicians. He fights to protect them from the drastic consequences of drinking alcohol and worries as they battle the deadly diseases which reduce their population to near extinction. Chief 7idandsuu's heir, renamed Charles Edensaw by missionaries, began to preserve Haida art in about 1894. His efforts have been continued by Bill Reid, his great-nephew and the illustrator of this book.

Raven's Cry is one of the most carefully researched historical portrayals I have ever read. It definitely deserves a place on public, school, and academic library shelves.
Janet Nickoloff
Riverside Middle School Library

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The Last Cowboy: Twilight Era of the Horseback Cowhand, 1900-1940 / Jo Rainbolt -- Helena: American & World Geographic Pub., 1992. 176 pp. ISBN 1-56037-012-2 (paper), $12.95.

"I usually didn't listen much to cowboys under age eighty," confesses Jo Rainbolt towards the end of her book. The Missoula author largely relied on the memories of six old Montana cowhands (well, one was from northern Wyoming) born from 1890-1908, and a "youngster" of 1912 vintage. Rainbolt captures their individuality while looking for the commonality in their experiences.

A recurring refrain throughout is that Hollywood got it all wrong. For example, these cowboys were not gunslingers. They might have owned a gun but rarely carried it. A rope was a more useful tool of the trade.

A cowboy would never walk if he could ride and took pride in his small feet -- they distinguished him from the unfortunate "clodhoppers" whose soles spent more time on the ground. Yet in their working days, cowhands did not generally own a horse. Rather, horses were their "property" only as long as they worked for a given outfit. These cowhands traveled from job to job by train.

How did a young Norwegian, whose experience was limited to milk cows, become a cowboy? Why did Tony Grace prefer the job title of "cow chaperone"? What was the Cowboy Code? What did cowboys really wear? How did they get those tight boots on (and off)? Why were the chuck-wagon cooks so cranky? And what goes into S.O.B. stew? In collecting oral histories throughout the 1980's, Rainbolt gathered up answers to these questions and other details of cowboy life before World War II.

Because of its local emphasis, this is a particularly relevant book for Montana libraries. It is enhanced by a thorough index and a Montana map for locating the place names that crop up in the text. An excellent foreword by Richard B. Roeder (co-author of Montana: A History of Two Centuries) provides historical background information that helps the reader appreciate the individual recollections that follow. Only the photographs were a little disappointing because of their occasional murkiness.

The Last Cowboy will convince you that Hollywood did get it wrong but also that the truth is even more interesting than the fiction.
Ginny Waples

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Where the Morning Light's Still Blue: Personal Essays about Idaho / William Studebaker and Rick Ardinger, eds. -- Moscow, ID: University of Idaho Press, 1994. ISBN 0-89301-170-3, $15.95.

This is a fine collection of essays. Well-written and perceptive, they represent a cross-culture of Idaho both geographically and personally. From Lewiston to Pocatello, Lolo Pass to Boise, Twin Falls to Coeur d'Alene, they render the sweet smell of sage and the solid hand of silence. Personal resonance is strong as well. A.B. Guthrie's early writing shares covers with Robert Wrigley's swing, snow, and skull. The hard working horses of Mary Clearman Blew come from a childhood ranch as do the mud and manure sucking at the boots of Lynn Langer Meeks as she fights the cattle Black Death and Charlie Manson. The authors speak of light on rivers, sunsets and mammoth night skies, and silence again and again. Animals, tracks, mountains, dirt roads, flat tires, and long periods of waiting, resilience, and peace. Whether Jean Nutile's sagebrush or Kim Stafford's laundromat at the boundary of the Ft. Hill Indian Reservation, Idaho speaks clearly in each essay.

The essays are loosely grouped into four sections that blend well with each other, creating an enjoyable reading experience. This book will fit well in both public and academic libraries. The quality of writing makes it an excellent addition to collections of literature of the American West.
Sue Samson
University of Montana

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The Walker Western Series

One-Eyed Cowboy Wild / John D. Nesbitt -- New York: Walker, 1994. ISBN 0-8027-4135-5, $19.95.

Murphy's Stand / Gary Paulsen and Brian Burks -- New York: Walker, 1993. ISBN 0-8027-1277-0, $17.95.

Cottonwood Station / Michael Zimmer -- New York: Walker, 1993. ISBN 0-8027-1273-8, $19.95.

Like the Western movie, the Western novel has had its obituary written many times. In recent years the Western movie has enjoyed a major revival and its younger sibling the Western television series has reappeared after a long absence. And the Western novel is flourishing.

The genre can be traced back to Owen Wister and Charles King, to Bret Harte, and even to James Fenimore Cooper. Writers from Zane Grey to Louis L'Amour have enjoyed enormous popularity as Western taletellers, producing books that sell millions of copies years after the authors are dead.

One of the principal publishers of the modern Western novel is Walker and Company, located, like most publishers of the genre, in New York City. Each year it turns out many new novels in hardcover. Several well-known Montana writers appear under its imprint -- Gary Svee, Richard Wheeler, and Earl Murray, to name three from the Yellowstone valley area. Most Walker authors are themselves Westerners by residence if not by birth. The myths behind the Western novel appeal to readers (and writers) nationwide but most strongly perhaps in the region where those myths were born.

As a typical example of a Walker novel one might cite One-Eyed Cowboy Wild by John D. Nesbitt of Torrington, Wyoming. This is the tale of a trivial argument that turns into blood feud. A card game suggested in the title plays a crucial role in the plot. Eventually Nesbitt's well-drawn characters are caught up in a bloody tragedy springing from a minor dispute.

Another Walker novel, Murphy's Stand, coauthored by Gary Paulsen (Newbery Award winner) and fellow New Mexican Brian Burks, is the third in a series. This story revolves around an ex-lawman's clash with an evil rancher bent on putting the heroine of the novel out of business -- a classic plot line used by Western authors for generations.

The clash between Native Americans and invading whites has supplied ideas and characters for multitudes of Western novels. Overall it may be the single most important wellspring of the myth. Michael Zimmer of Utah has written Cottonwood Station, with a story hinging on the defense of a fortified stage station against a band of Cheyenne warriors.

These are but a few of many Walker novels. They are individual products, all entertaining stories even if they are not deathless masterpieces. They help to keep alive a literary tradition as old as the mystery novel and enjoyed by generations of readers and authors alike.
Jim Curry
Parmly Billings Library

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Glacier Panorama / Will Landon -- Helena: Falcon, 1992. 156 pp. ISBN 1-56044-114-3 (cloth), $50.

Glacier Panorama is the quintessential picture book for Glacier Park. So many of the other picture books on Glacier feature only the standard views from the roads, hotels, and the most popular trails. At best, a few aerial shots of the more remote regions may be included. Landon, a long time visitor, includes marvelous shots from some of the most remote regions of the park. Few have ever seen Gyrfalcon Lake, camped below Pyramid Peak, or hiked along Trapper Ridge. Landon captures these remote areas on film and includes them along with pictures from better known areas of the park.

Any amateur photographer experiences the problem of capturing a mountain panorama on film. Even the widest of lenses falls short in portraying the sweep of a mountain top scene, and the usual collage of separate pictures does not do justice to the real view. Landon gets as close as anyone to faithfully reproducing the grandeur of Glacier through use of large format conventional and panoramic cameras. Some of the panoramic shots are 90 or 110 degrees, but others show the splendor of a full 360 degree view. These panoramas set this work apart from all the others. Glacier Panorama is a unique addition to any Glacier collection.
Greg Notess

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Iron in Her Soul: Elizabeth Gurley Flynn and the American Left / Helen C. Camp -- Pullman: Washington State University Press, 1995. ISBN 0-87422-106-4, $28.00.

In 1909, Missoula Montana had a class of racketeers known as employment "sharks." These extortionists sold jobs to "migratory workers who were fired once they had earned enough to pay the agency's fee and the job foreman's kickback." That most radical of American unions, the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), or Wobblies as they were better known, publicized the practices of these sharks, frequently on the doorsteps of the agencies themselves. Elizabeth Gurley Flynn was instrumental in protecting their right to do so. When police arrested Wobblies who spoke out, Flynn and the few Wobblies who had not yet been jailed called "for all footloose rebels to come at once -- to defend the Bill of Rights," and Wobblies poured into Missoula.

This is the first full-length biography of the only woman leader of the Wobblies. Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, or "girlie" as she was affectionately called by the predominantly male Wobbly membership, started her lifelong professional revolutionary career while still in high school in the Bronx. Her other Wobbly activities included organizing immigrant factory workers in Patterson, NJ and Lawrence, MA, iron ore miners on Minnesota's Mesabi Range, and lumberjacks in the Pacific Northwest. After the Wobblies' decline and Red Scare following World War I, Flynn became a founding member of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). She formed the Workers Defense Union to provide legal and financial support to victims of the Palmer raids in the early twenties, the most renowned recipients being Sacco and Vanzetti. During the late 1930s, Flynn joined the American Communist Party. She served a three-year prison term in the 1950s, a victim of a second Red Scare in the form of McCarthyism. She became the first woman chair of the American Communist Party in 1961 and died in 1964.

This well-documented biography is based on primary research, including Flynn's personal papers, writings, memoirs, interviews, FBI files, and trial transcripts. It makes for enjoyable reading and has sixteen pages of photographs, including one with the president of the Butte Miners Union taken in 1909. Recommended for all academic libraries. The sections dealing with Montana and the Northwest, though sparse, make it a desirable item for public and high school libraries in Montana as well.
Janet Owens
MSU-Bozeman Libraries

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Exploring the Mountain States through Literature / Sharyl G. Smith, ed. -- Phoenix: Oryx, 1994. 157 pp. ISBN 0-89774-783-6 (paper), $24.95.

According to the series statement, this seven book series ". . . offers teachers, school library media specialists, and public librarians valuable assistance in resource selection and user guidance." The series would provide a good resource for curriculum support for "state reports" in elementary schools. Materials listed in the series include print and non-print for grades K-8. Introductory materials include an essay on each state -- Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming -- that assesses the general status of the literary resources of the state. Contributing editors from each state are introduced.

The book is arranged by state with entries listed according to Dewey classification. Although periodicals and professional materials are sorted into separate categories, videos are not. This made identifying videos more difficult than necessary. Many entries are followed by suggested activities. While some of these seemed useful, the ones in the Montana section lack creativity. The listings would be more helpful if book availability in hardback or paperback and price would have been included. A thorough directory of publishers and author, title, and subject indexes would help in searching and ordering.

Once again, the lack of Montana fiction for this age group becomes evident. Most of the books in the Montana section are non-fiction. Although the introductory essay on Montana begins with reference to the Battle of the Little Bighorn, only one book is listed on the subject. That may indicate a lack of writing for the age level. Residents of the eastern part of the state will notice the lack of titles from this area -- not even Eastern Montana published by Montana Magazine. Ember the Cat by John Willard and Pompeys Pillar by Roger Clawson, which represent this area of Montana , would expand coverage of the entire state.

Perhaps, not identifying and including the entire Montana Magazine series is the biggest oversight. We also noted the absence of Maia, a Dinosaur Grows Up by John Horner. On a picky personal level, we were disappointed to find Soun Tetoken by Ken Thomasma in the Idaho and Wyoming sections even though the story deals with the Nez Perce journey through Montana.

At nearly $25 for the paperback, this is not a purchase for a single library. Yet, this volume, even the series, would be useful in those areas where resources are shared among libraries.
Margaret Lab
Billings Senior High
and Karin Green
Broadwater Elementary

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Graced By Pines: The Ponderosa Pine in the American West / Alexandra Murphy -- Missoula: Mountain Press, 1994. ISBN 0-87842-307-9, $10.00.

William Blake conjured us to "see the world in a grain of sand," to discover the general by examining the particular. Alexandra Murphy has chosen the Ponderosa Pine as her grain of sand, and she examines it in this admirable little book of essays.

In nine essays, to be precise, and in them Murphy discusses the Ponderosa's ecology, habitat, uses, and mythology. Ponderosa pines have an enormous range, growing in every U.S. state west of the Great Plains, as well as Canada and Mexico. The tall, graceful trees grow at sea level and at well over 9000 feet, and have long been valued for their clear, straight timber. Indeed, this commercial value has been a two-edged sword: as Murphy relates, the Ponderosa's timber value means intensive "harvesting." The Ponderosa's economic potential also led to suppression of wildfires in the pine forests, and for a tree that requires natural fire to thrive, that meant less valuable trees. Under a natural fire regime, Ponderosas grow tall and straight in relatively open, park-like areas with little underbrush. When natural fire is absent, underbrush increases, the forest grows cluttered with competing species, and the Ponderosas which manage to start tend to be sickly and spindly. Humans, with their relatively short lifespans, have an accordingly short-term concept of investment and profit. This conflicts directly and dramatically with the Ponderosa pine, which needs several hundred years to attain its maximum size and value, or at least value from a human perspective.

When seen as something other than timber, of course, the Ponderosa is valuable much sooner, even for humans. Its needles can be shaped into attractive and useful baskets, and its sap and bark have reputed medicinal properties. The pines figure in the religious beliefs of various Native Americans. And for non-humans, such as squirrels, hawks, bears, and a host of other creatures, the pines are simply home.

Murphy has indeed been "graced by pines," and consequently writes gracefully and thoughtfully. Robert Perry has contributed attractive illustrations. Natural history sections in public libraries will benefit from this book, and high school students could profitably use Murphy as a model when writing informative essays. While perhaps not an essential purchase, this little volume will likely be read long after better known, more politically-oriented natural history titles have passed from view.
George Suttle
MSU-Bozeman Libraries

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Pavlov's Trout: the Incompleat Psychology of Everyday Fishing / Paul Quinnett -- Sandpoint, ID: Keokee Publishers, 1994. 209 pp. ISBN 1-879628-05-8 (paper), $12.95.

Pavlov's Trout paints humorous pictures connecting serious subjects to the art of fishing. Psychologist Quinnett relates self-esteem, mental health, stress, sex, and marriage to becoming a fisherman. Whether by lure, bait, or fly fishing, he shows how any person can associate human nature to the experience of fishing. Although Pavlov's Trout says nothing about how to catch a fish, it is a truly enjoyable book for the stream-minded person. It deserves a place in any library whose patrons fish.
Dean Bladow
Billings Senior High
Fly Fishing Advisor

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Wine Magic: The Wine Guide for Fun-Loving People /Alan R. and Sandra L. Putnam -- Gallatin Gateway: Salandi Publishers (PO Box 369, Gallatin Gateway, MT 59730) in cooperation with Skyhouse Publishers, an imprint of Falcon Press, 1994. ISBN 1-56044-305-7, $14.95

St. Paul does an astonishing thing in his letter to his protege Timothy. He instructs him to take some wine for his stomach. And ever since good folks have been arguing the virtues of wine or its lack of virtue. This little book is no exception.

This book is not for not the wine snob nor the experienced taster. It is designed for those who know absolutely nothing about wine. The first chapter bears the title "What is Wine?" That is how basic this book is. The authors fortunately avoid the error of being too simplistic. They lay the groundwork and then build up from there. The result is that beginning with a simple explanation of wine in chapter 1, we move into how to read bottle labels, how to serve wine, and how to rate wine. That covers the first 3 chapters. Next Al and Sandi, the self-described wine guzzling authors, move into the heart of the matter.

White wines are given a whole chapter with subsections devoted to chardonnay, rieslings, and so on. Red wines follow suit as do blends and dessert wines. Next the authors discuss the related and very important issue of where producers are and what they produce, with two chapters given over to the discussion of American wineries.

The last three chapters set this book apart from any other book on wine that I have seen. First they discuss the issue that ancient medicine raised: is wine good for you? The authors have amassed an interesting array of evidence to show that indeed wine is a healthy and healthful addition to the diet if taken in moderation, a quality we sometimes find wanting. Then they deal with wine and cancer, alcoholism, fetal alcohol syndrome, heart disease, aging, sulfites, lead, and the issue of "chubbiness".

The thirteenth chapter, "Wine and Food-and Music," will probably be the most used and useful of the book. The authors tell us that hard and fast rules really don't apply. Drink with your meal what tastes good with the food, or eat the food that blends well with the wine, whichever way the reader prefers. For proper ambience, choice of music is important, but just as important is matching your individual choices. This is sage advice in my opinion. Based on their own experiences and that of friends and guests, the authors do provide a list of suggestions. For example, if you are serving hamburgers they suggest six different wines, all reds or blushes. They further suggest listening to "The Traveling Wilbury's" as music for the meal. This chapter also includes a chart.

The final chapter of the book is a most useful mine of information. It consists of a listing of good wine values and good shops. They begin with the type of wine and then list good wines between $4.50 and $7.00, and then between $7.00 and $11.00, ranges are approximate. It is surprising that one can pick up an enjoyable, tasty hobby so inexpensively.

They also list wineries which frequently appear in their cellar and which are also good values for the pocketbook. Wine Magic closes with a glossary with which you can impress your family and friends with how much you now know about enology (that's wine making).

The Putnams present themselves as a fun loving folk. This certainly comes across in the book, much more so than the pretentious style of this review would indicate. This little book is filled with items to make the reader crack a smile from the dedication which claims the dedicatee to have stolen thousands of glasses of wine to "Reader's Rave About Wine Magic" with quotes from Kay Sirah-Syrah of Willbe-Willbe, Australia to the footnotes on nearly every page to the running commentary of their friend Luigi who had definite opinions on wine. The Putnams in my opinion would be a couple I would certainly enjoy having over for dinner and fun. They come across in the book as being very friendly, open, and just enjoying life. They are especially warm about wine.

Wine Magic is written by Montanans and is published by a Montana company. At first I did a little double take. A book on WINE of all things coming from Montana? Our area is not know as one of the parts of the world most familiar with the grape. It even gives mention of Montana's own winery, Mission Mountain. So now Montana has burst onto the wine scene with this book. My hat is doffed to the Putnams.
Larry Swain
Parmly Billings Library

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A Simple Guide to Self-Publishing / Mark Ortman -- Kirkland, WA: Wise Owl Books, 1994. ISBN 0-9634699-8-3, $5.95.

"Desk-top publishing" did not exist ten years ago. These days, anyone with a computer and one of several word processing programs can turn out anything from a handbill to an association newsletter. The more adventurous can turn to standard high-end programs such as Pagemaker for professional quality typesetting and layout. But for true publishing, one needs to be able to deal with more things than composition and layout, and that's where this slim volume comes in handy.

A Simple Guide to Self-Publishing is about, well, publishing. It doesn't tell you how to operate your computer, or say much about programs to use. What Ortman does, and does well, is discuss how to deal with print shops, distributors,book stores, and how to handle things like copyright applications, obtaining an ISBN, etc. In a sense, this is more a small-business guide than a computer book or a writing aid.

For anyone who hankers to be in print, but for whatever reason doesn't want to go through the usual publication channels, this book deserves a place on the shelf between Writer's Market and your favorite dictionary.

George Suttle

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Web version of Montana Library Focus prepared by Greg Notess. Last updated, 6/19/95. Copyright © 1995, Montana Library Association.