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Friday, 7 February 2014

FFB - 'The Searchers'

Surprisingly, until recently, this book was been out of print for decades. It was worth the wait. I wrote a 'Book of the Film' review in an earlier blog (March 10, 2009).

Now, the book has a new cover and additional introductory text.

The author Alan LeMay is an excellent storyteller, building his characters with deft touches.  He employs what is now regarded as the old-fashioned style, the omniscient point of view so we get inside the feelings of more than one character within a particular scene; it works because he never loses control.
Latest version available on Amazon

Interestingly, the John Wayne character Ethan Edwards is called Amos in the book, and is not the lead. The story is told mainly through the eyes of orphan Martin Pauley, whose father was called Ethan. Surprisingly, perhaps, the film stayed true to the story even though Wayne dominates.

Inevitably, there are grim scenes in the book, but no gratuitous gore. There’s humour too. Amos says he had no book learning. ‘To us, grammar is nothing but grampaw’s wife.’ The old ones are the best. And later, the observation is made about tequila that ‘There is a great independence, and a confident immunity to risk, in all drinks made out of cactus.’

Possibly some people haven’t seen the film. Put simply, the book concerns the Edwards family who are massacred by a Comanche raiding party; the two young daughters are abducted. Amos and Martin set out on a quest to rescue the girls and also avenge the deaths of Amos’s brother and sister-in-law, the woman he loved and lost. They track the Indians until the snows obliterate all trace. Finally, when the snows have gone, Amos and Martin resume their search, persisting for over five years. And all this time Martin fears that Amos is intent on killing his nieces because they were bound to be ‘spoiled’. The book’s ending only slightly differs from the film; both versions are moving and memorable.
My copy of the book

The striking cover (my copy of the book) is not merely a colourful generic image – the silhouette of the tree is significant to Martin’s recurring nightmares.

As a bonus, the book has a special introduction by Andrew J Fenady, who wrote several Wayne westerns and was the actor’s pal; as he says, ‘No man was more a part of the American landscape… He was a man to match the mountains.’ The new version also has a lengthy article ‘The making of The Searchers by Harry Carey Jr.’

Justifiably, a modern classic western.


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