Review: The Vengeance Trail of Josey Wales

The Vengeance Trail of Josey Wales
The Vengeance Trail of Josey Wales by Forrest Carter
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Certainly not as bad as some reviewers have branded it, The Vengeance Trail of Josey Wales is a serviceable sequel to a really good Western novel.

This book put me in mind of several other books, most notably Fred Gibson’s Savage Sam, the sequel to Old Yeller. Well, except with some graphic rape and murder. But the two sets of novels have some stuff in common, with Old Yeller and Gone To Texas both being superior novels with more original plots and both sequels being chase stories through the Old West.

But what was weird was that Vengeance Trail is bogged down with an abundance of description and history. And … well … a good deal of that kept putting me in mind of John Steinbeck. I would love to know if Forrest Carter had been reading Steinbeck before or during the writing of this book.

But enough of that. As I said, this is a serviceable sequel. All the characters are back, at least for a while, and there are some new ones. Josey is very much the patriarch of his little group, although Grandma certainly runs things in the house. But very little of the novel takes place under the baleful eye of Grandma Sarah.

Unlike in the first novel, Carter jumps us into the heads of multiple characters, and I think that was partly to flesh out a pretty thin and short novel. It isn’t always a bad thing.

The downsides of the book are that Josey Wales is never wrong about his opponent. There are no surprises, nothing really going wrong, and so little suspense. The other thing was the inclusion of Geronimo. It’s a personal preference not to include actual historical figures. Perhaps Carter saw himself as adding to Geronimo’s legend.

Finally, for all the things Carter is accused of being in his life — Klan leaders and such — this book, like its predecessor, is very inclusive of all races, and women, and Carter seems to be extremely sympathetic to the plight of the poor, screwed-over Indians of Mexico.

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