"The Broken Trail"
(Reviewed by Tony Ross AUG 26, 2006)
As a child I went through a Western-reading phase, but it's been a number of years since I've dipped into anything of that genre. However, recent viewings of HBO's Deadwood have rekindled an interest in the subject matter, so I thought I'd give this debut novel a whirl.
It opens with an awkward two-page prologue spanning the Western countryside, a small Chinese village, and the Boer War. This soon gives way to the kind of deceptively simple storytelling which sucks you in for fifty pages before you realize it. The plot is nothing particularly complicated: an old cowboy and his nephew buy 500 horses in eastern Oregon and drive them to Wyoming to sell for a tidy profit to agents for the British army. Along the way, the two men have various adventures and meet interesting people, including: renegade Indians, desperate Indians, men just looking for a break, thieves, bullies, rapists, the law, Yankee fly-fishing tourists, madams, sporting ladies, honest merchants, mean merchants, a Chinaman, and a pimp trying sell five Chinese girls into prostitution.
Written with the actor Robert Duvall in mind, the uncle is a crusty old fella', well-read and fond of a good story. His nephew is a bit of a cipher, mainly distinguished by being surlier and more prone to acts of violence. As the two lead their herd from vignette to vignette, the author builds a classic picture of stoic comradeship and family. These are cowboys who aren't reluctant to take care of those in need, but also aren't reluctant to mete out frontier justice when needed.
After the two men, the next most prominent character has to be the West itself, as Geoffrion revels in descriptive passages evoking the West before it was won. There are also vivid descriptions of food, horseflesh, and sanitation of the time, all adding depth to the relatively simple story of the journey to Wyoming. Like a lot of genre fiction, the characters could have had a lot more depth, and the themes aren't exactly subtle, but it's a good page turning read and one that should translate well to screen.
- Amazon readers rating: from 17 reviews
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Bibliography: (with links to Amazon.com)
- Broken Trail (June 2006)
Movies from Books:
- Broken Trail (September 2006)
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- Washington Post backstory of Broken Trail
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About the Author:
Alan Geoffrion has written short stories and screenplays, including Time and Chance, and has been in the horse business for more than 40 years. He was educated at the University of Tennessee, served two tours of duty in Vietnam, and spent a number of years in newspaper and magazine publishing.
Geoffrion lives in the Virginia Piedmont.