Book Review — Scalp Mountain

by Julia Robb

Book Cover

My Review

Scalp Mountain is historical fiction and I’m a big fan of this genre. Before writing this story, Julia Robb did extensive research about the history and geography of the region. It shows.

That said, this book has much in common with literary fiction. Throughout most of the story we see the vast expanse of the southern plains, the Guadalupe and Davis Mountains, Rio Grande River and surrounding territory. Julia Robb uses vivid, lyrical prose to show us this landscape. While reading, I was transported back to the 1870s. Her writing takes readers on a ride where they experience the story through all their senses; sight, sound, touch, smell and mental imagery through the use of beautiful word pictures.

Unlike romanticized Hollywood westerns of our parents’ time, in this story you’ll find good and bad on all sides. These truly are three dimensional characters; characters based in the realities of life, not cowboys in white hats and villains in black.

Characters define this story and lead us through the plot. In these characters we see complex personalities. Most of the story is presented through the eyes of the protagonist, Colum McNeal. Colum faces life and death situations from multiple characters who would love to kill him. He understands the motivation of two of them; revenge. Another, long time acquaintance, Mason Lohman is a mystery to him.

Julia Robb relies heavily on inner dialog. You’ll spend almost as much time inside these characters heads as you do watching the action taking place around them. There is a powerful psychological feel to the story.

That said, there are well executed fight scenes; those between individuals and between larger groups; from gun battles to knife fights, you’ll be at the center of the action in these fast paced, rapidly changing scenes.

Julia will help  you see touching emotions from many of the characters; not just the protagonist. Much of the story is centered on pioneer settlers and their Native American rivals; other parts between Texas Rangers and the U.S. Cavalry. You’ll get a balanced, realist portrayal of each. Clementine Weaver, the wife of one of Colum’s neighbor, has adopted an Apache orphan. This orphan child is the son of José Ortero, a Jacarilla Apache and at one point we see his love for the child. Column is drawn to her as she nurses him through recovery after a brutal attack. His feelings become much more than sentimental.

Mankind has a history of brutality during war. Scalp Mountain doesn’t look the other way when it comes to violence. These scenes of gruesome violence will make you shudder at the harsh realities we humans foist upon one another. Atrocities occurred upon and from each of the opposing groups.

You’ll find things about the white pioneers and the Apaches you admire. I think you’ll come away with a fuller, richer understanding of the real dynamics of the late 1800s in West Texas.

The author has done thorough research and that research has paid dividends in this well written story about difficult times and circumstances.

Book Description

It’s 1876 at Scalp Mountain and Colum McNeal is fleeing gunmen sent by his Irish-immigrant father. Colum pioneers a Texas ranch, a home which means everything to him, but struggles to stay there: José Ortero, a Jacarilla Apache, seeks revenge for the son Colum unwittingly killed.

At the same time, an old acquaintance, Mason Lohman, obsessively stalks Colum through the border country, planning to take his life. Colum has inspired the unthinkable in Lohman. In a time and place where a man’s sexuality must stand unchallenged, Colum has ignited Lohman’s desire.

Other characters include Texas Ranger William Henry, who takes Colum’s part against his father while wrestling with his own demons. Henry’s family was murdered by Comanches and he regrets the revenge he took;
and Clementine Weaver, who defies frontier prejudice by adopting an Indian baby, must choose between Colum and her husband.

Scalp Mountain is based on the Southern Plains’ Indian Wars.
Those wars were morally complex, and the novel attempts to reflect those profound, tragic and murderous complications.

“Everyone was right, everyone was wrong, everyone got hurt.”

For more information, visit my website, at scalp mountain.com and the blog, at http://scalpmountain.blogspot.com/

About the Author, Julia Robb

I’m a former journalist and editor-I spent 20 years in the newspaper business-and I’m now a free-lance writer/editor in Marshall, Texas. For fun, I drive across Texas, to the deserted corners, the wide spaces, heading west past Waco, watching the mesas float in the distance.

I began writing “Scalp Mountain” in 2009, when I saw images in my mind; a man kicking his horse into a gallop, racing away from a crime, two men fighting in a Texas valley, a woman hugging an Indian baby, refusing to let him go.

Excerpt about the history of West TexasBuddies in the Saddle said about “Scalp Mountain,”

“This is a fine novel. If you drew a line between “Lonesome Dove” and “All the Pretty Horses,” you would find “Scalp Mountain” somewhere along the way…..there were times when this one had me and refused to let go. For anyone who likes their westerns well grounded in history, this is one you don’t want to miss.”

For more information, visit my website at scalpmountain.com, and my blog, at Julia Robb’s Blog.

“Here’s the truth:
Everyone was right
Everyone was wrong
And everyone got hurt.
Scalp Mountain, an ebook on sale at Amazon.com, is my attempt to describe this uniquely American tragedy, through the lives of fictional characters.”

To purchase the book, visit: Amazon Purchase Link  

5 Comments

Filed under Book Review, Historical Fiction, Texas, Texas Rangers, Writing

5 responses to “Book Review — Scalp Mountain

  1. An informative review, Rich – you really gave me the flavour of the book.

    Personally, I enjoy being able to think and feel alongside the characters, and not just see them from the outside. It sounds like this book does this very well.

    • You’re correct, T.James.
      This really is more about the characters and their feelings than plot line.
      That said, Julia Robb gives the reader vivid images of this exotic region of Texas.

  2. Great review, Rich. I’ve read a lot of non-fiction on the Plains’ Indian Wars and a few fictional accounts as well. I will definitely be looking up Julia’s book. It sounds like a great read!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s