Blood and Thunder

James Book reviews, Reviews

Blood and Thunder

An Epic of the American West

by Hampton Sides | Little, Brown

Hampton Sides, editor-at-large and award-winning author of Ghost Soldiers, brings us the blockbusting history of the nineteenth-century south-western USA through the life of Kit Carson, trapper, soldier and scout.

President James Polk entered office with the desire to extend US territorial claims to the west, all the way to the Pacific Ocean, under the concept of Manifest Destiny – which some still see in current American policy-making.

This grand tale paints a broad picture in vivid detail

And so begins the Mexican War – with the Navajo hardly considered troublesome. The widely travelled frontiersman Carson would be well placed to understand the complex clash of cultures unfolding. Five-foot-two and illiterate he may have been, but he was fluent in five Indian languages as well as Spanish, and twice married Native American women. The Navajo attempted to maintain their way of life, but the situation descended into open warfare when Narbona, a wise old warrior, was shot in the back following confusion over a stolen horse. Quiet Carson then found the ability to turn into an unquestioning killer, scalping Navajo heads when circumstances or orders required it.

This grand tale paints a broad picture in vivid detail. It covers more than just the Mexican War and its aftermath, giving us the histories of other conflicts and rebellions, with accounts of explorers, politicians and fools thrown in. It’s no wonder that Steven Spielberg has optioned the film rights. But if you want the detail, read the book.

First published: Traveller magazine, Spring 2007
Buy Blood and Thunder by Hampton Side from Amazon »
JamesBlood and Thunder