Shadow of an Indian Star
Bill Paul and Cindy Paul
When sixteen-year-old Smith Paul strode away from his North Carolina home in the darkness of a September night, 1824 he had little awareness how his precipitous behavior would shape not only his immediate life but that of generations to come. The lonely young man who found life living in a home with a recently widowed, recently married father, unkind step-mother and lonely sadness for his mother lost to lingering death unbearable; soon learned that life on his own was also fraught with sorrow. Various of the people Smith first met were not only cruel and untrustworthy; they often were also common thieves and at times thoughtless killers. Smith was fortunate to meet Hezekiah Burkitt, a knowledgeable black man, who taught him secrets of the fur trapper trade. The deaths of Burkitt and his donkey, Scrap Iron, at the hands of conniving traders sent Smith into a desperate run for his own life.
A chance meeting with an Indian caught in the jaws of a huge bear was the catalyst to propel Smith Paul into a life he had not sought, came to love, and shaped not only his fate but that of those around him. Book one of the three part narrative continues Smith Paul forward from that chance meeting with Ja-Paw-Nee to the Chickasaw removal from their ancestral lands and into Indian Territory. Smith, called Ikhimilo following his courageous face on attack upon the bear bent upon savaging Ja-Paw-Nee, lives with the Chickasaw in Mississippi until 1838 when the people of Yaneka Village begin their trek along the Trail of Tears. It is while on the journey that Smith runs into an old nemesis, this time however, Smith Paul is no longer a sixteen-year-old stripling and the meeting has a far different outcome. Book one continues the narrative into Indian Territory, death of Reverend McClure, the white man who came to preach gospel to the Chickasaw and stayed to become wainwright for the area, marriage of Smith to the woman he adores, and his young family beginning life in Indian Territory.
Book Two opens in 1858 as the Smith Paul family becomes well known, prosperous and influential in the valley still called Pauls Valley, Oklahoma. Smith’s oldest son Sam is disillusioned when he returns from a campaign as a scout for G. A Custer. Sam buries his brother and begins a rise to power, political and personal over the years. Sam skirts along the edge of legal and brutality, marries more than once, fathers children within marriage and without and proves not much of a husband or father a good bit of the time. He is a likeable character none the less. Sam’s ability to see beyond today and into the ruthlessness of the federal government and greed of those in power drives him politically forward despite all odds.
Book Three begins in Santa Barbara, California 1890. Smith is now eighty-two, has remarried following the death of his beloved wife and has turned over his business to his heirs. He leaves the territory to begin a new life in California with a new wife. When his grandson Joe appears in California following a row with his father Smith decides it is time to go home. He persuades Joe to accompany him, but does not tell anyone that they are coming. If the elder Paul had done so. history might have read differently for the family. The rift between Sam and Joe Paul cannot be mended even as the Paul story continues with more upsets, marriages, births, deaths and life.
The writers Paul have crafted an entertaining, compelling read based both on research and family lore. The story of Smith Paul is easily read, written well and most enjoyable. The writers state ‘This is a work of fiction. The names of the main characters, places and events are not figments of the authors’ imaginations. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is purely intentional. This is the story Bill Paul’s grandfather told him.’
As a lifelong reader of historical fact, social mores and just plain good books I found Shadow of an Indian Star difficult reading at times. Reading of the slaughter of Scrap Iron and Burkitt saddened me enormously. Whether this incident was imagination or based in fact, the reality is, similar instances did take place in those days and that is what makes the sketch compelling. I enjoyed the narrative as a whole, found inclusion of the various news clips taken from newspapers added to the tale and would like to have seen a picture or two of the main characters added to the work.
Shadow of an Indian Star will make an excellent addition to the home pleasure library, high school and college library, home school, high school reading list and for those who just like a well crafted book filled with lusty, realistic characters, lots of action and straight forward language. Brutal death, realistically portrayed, human emotion and depravity are all portrayed with a delicate hand. As a plus the writers manage to portray a vigorous, hearty group of people in robust language without resorting to graphic sex or profanity. I do not keep many of the books sent for review, this is one I will be keeping.
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