“A man must feel he belongs to something. As long as he floats around space doing little chores that start and end with his hands and never reach his heart, he’s no good to himself. Some things are real and some things are only tinsel paper that people wrap themselves in, having nothing more important to do with their time.”
This 1943 beauty by Ernest Haycox is ostensibly about Custer’s last stand, which we do encounter in the climax, but it is much more than that.
We follow soldier Kern Shafter through affairs of honor, of the heart, and of warfare. Shafter is good company, he is the Western hero writ as real, but still embodies much of the shining knight nobility that can attract when penned by a true craftsman rather than being a mere carboard cutout.
Fans of Haycox already know to expect good things. Fans of John Ford’s cavalry trilogy will find much of the same feel of humanity, honor, and the push and pull of human dynamics here.
I would also like to remark on a scene during a blizzard, Haycox [and perhaps Alistair MacLean] write some of the most realistic man vs. elements scenarios to be found. You will feel the chill in your bones.
A rightfully acknowledged classic.