“Little Bighorn: A Novel” John Hough, Jr.

Rated 3 stars *** To be published June 3, 2014. ebook. ARC. Arcade Publishing.

LittleBighornANovelYoung eighteen-year-old Allen Winslow, against his better judgement, is coerced by his overbearing mother and General George Custer to travel to Fort Lincoln to become Custer’s secretary. There he was expected to ride with Custer and the men of the 7th Cavalry against Sitting Bull and his Sioux warriors. Despite his pacifist reservations, Allen agreed to the plan which also included accompanying sixteen-year-old Addie Grace Lord on the train to visit her surgeon brother at the fort.

Despite his best intentions Allen and Addie Grace fell in love, and the story of what happened at the Battle of Little Bighorn in 1876 is intertwined with their love for each other. In telling their stories Hough explores Custer’s many extramarital affairs, and uses foreshadowing felt by the soldier’s wives and Custer’s scouts to let readers know things won’t turn out as everyone had thought. He uses Allen’s accounts of the battle to describe what happened before, during and after Custer met the Sioux he had eagerly expected to kill.

Absent from Hough’s narrative are the reasons why the Sioux had gathered together in large numbers with other tribes to battle Custer and hold off more encroachment on their lands. A full explanation was also absent of the 1868 massacre, committed by Custer and his men, of Cheyenne women, children and elderly leaders. Hough showed that Custer fully expected to repeat this massacre at Little Bighorn.

If you’re an adult who wants to read a “typical” story of the American West which glorifies the U.S. soldiers and leaders who put Native Americans onto reservations and, if you agree with the U.S. government being allowed to break treaties with the Indians so they could hunt freely for gold, build railroads, forts and settlements on Indian land then “Little Bighorn: A Novel” is the book for you.

If you’d rather read an “untypical” book of the American West which tells the Sioux point of view of why they felt they had no choice but to gather at Little Bighorn, and if you want to read more of the betrayal felt by many tribes at having treaty after treaty broken by the U.S. government, and what happened to those who dared to stand firm on their ancestral land, then you should look elsewhere for a good book.

Thus, I will leave it up to you to decide if you want to Read it or Not.


6 thoughts on ““Little Bighorn: A Novel” John Hough, Jr.

  1. I have never responded to a review of a book of mine and don’t think writers should, in general, but your patently false review of my novel, Little Bighorn, was too much. You are free to dislike my book of course, but to misrepresent it, as you do, does me great harm and is a disservice to your readers. George Custer’s “many infidelities” mentioned in the review are actually two, one of which occurred years before the novel takes place. Your reviewer accuses me of failing to mention the Battle of the Washita, in which Custer and his 7th Cavalry made a savage attack on a sleeping Cheyenne village; the Washita comes up again and again in my novel, and always as a wanton slaughter. My protagonist, Allen Winslow, is greatly troubled by it, and even Custer looks back on it with rue. But your reviewer’s most egregious claim is that I “glorify” Custer and his soldiers. This is nothing less than absurd. My Custer is a complex person with some virtues and many flaws, with the flaws preponderant. As for his soldiers, they quarrel among themselves, desecrate a Sioux burial ground, indulge in racist banter about the Indians they expect to slaughter, and come unglued, in sheer panic, when the battle engulfs them. Little Bighorn can be read as an anti-war novel–I hope it will be–and one reason is the mindlessness of the white soldiers, who view the Indians as aliens and savor the idea of killing them. Little Bighorn is not a polemic, which your reviewer obviously desired; it is a love story, a coming-of-age-story, and a story of the hideousness of war, where humans’ capacity to kill one another without remorse is on tragic display. I can’t imagine how your reviewer came up with his or her conclusions, but whoever it was, he or she wasn’t paying attention.

  2. debbiereese says:

    The author says that the story is about the hideousness of war, but there is not enough in the story itself to frame it as he wishes us to see it. It reads very much like an old western film or novel where the Native people are stereotyped as savage, mindless, primitive, and blood-thirsty. Custer and his men are far more developed as characters. The result is that the latter do come off as superior. As such, the reader mourns and glorifies Custer and his men.

  3. You seem to have missed something, Ms. Reese. The Indians aren’t “developed as characters” at all. We never hear them speak; they are seen from a distance, as the protagonist, Allen Winslow, sees them. Of course they are alien to him; he grew up in Salem, Massachusetts! There is no suggestion that they are “mindless:” quite the contrary, as they lure Custer into a trap and win the battle in brilliant fashion. I would expect the reader to “mourn” Boston Custer, who is young and naive and decent but not terribly bright, and Mitch Boyer, who is half Sioux, but not Custer, who brings this disaster on himself and gets his kid brother and nephew killed. And your “glorifies” still baffles me. The whole point of the novel is that this storied battle, which is so enshrouded in legend and romance, was far from glorious. The white men in my novel are invaders who have no feeling for, or understanding of, the people they have come to kill. Can you not understand that?

  4. I need to amend what I wrote above. We do hear a Native person speak, toward the end of the book. As this young man speaks he performs an act of great decency and, in that one moment, becomes one of the heroes of the novel. How the reviewer missed this, I’ll never know.

  5. TOC says:

    I just finished reading Little Bighorn and I enjoyed it thoroughly. In fact I read it in one day because I couldn’t put it down. I must say that I do agree with the author that the book did speak to the hideousness of war. I’m not sure how the other reviewers could of missed this.
    It was a great read and I highly recommend it.

  6. Bob LaFary says:

    I loved the book. I loved the characters–especially Allen. It is not a classroom history book. If the one reviewer wants a textbook–go to school and take a class. It was a very interesting read. Yes, you know what is going to happen at the end. But if you read a book about the battle of the Alamo, (Which is my favorite subject–and I am currently working on a book about it,) you know how it is going to end–but you read it anyway because you are interested in the subject. And “Little BigHorn” does have a survivor–and I loved that it did. It is a work of fiction. And as a writer you can have happen what you want to have happen. That is why it is called fiction. Mr. Hough–great work–and I would dearly love to talk with you sometime. Bob LaFary, Indianapolis, Indiana

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