Saturday, January 25, 2014

WOLF, NO WOLF by Peter Bowen

Peter Bowen's Wolf, No Wolf (1996) is about the slowly-unfolding death of the Old West.

Conservation activists release wolves back into the Wolf Mountains of Montana. The Mĕtis and other long-term residents of the land see their way of life threatened.

Gabriel Duprĕ's grandfather was part of the hunting group which killed the last two wolves. Now the land is devoted to cattle grazing, much of it on open lands.

Someone kills the first two people involved in the wolf release. Then someone murders other restorationists. Finally, a different person kills the FBI agent in charge of investigating the crimes. Early in the book the old holy man Benetsee predicts that killing.

The murders put Gabriel Duprĕ and his friend Bart in the position of having to investigate their own neighbors, members of families Mĕtis families have lived with on the land maybe since the 1700s.

Investigating his friends tears Duprĕ apart. He and Bart take it on because there is no one else to do it. Only the wealthy and well-loved outsider Bart might have the power to survive.

Finally, at least sixteen people die either through murder or because they are greenhorns and don't respect the power of a blizzard.

For me, this book was up and down, slow in the middle, but powerful in its theme and oddly believable in its ending.

Bowen fills Wolf, No Wolf with Mĕtis history. It is as if Bowen desperately wants us to understand this people.

I loved the setting and the people in this book.


When Madelaine badgered Du Prě into going to confession Du Prĕ would confess to living in sin with Madelaine Placquemines. The priest would say, Good, I am happy for you, five Hail Marys, say them, the words are pretty.


“Did you tell me what the Mĕtis are?” said Foote. 

“We the voyageurs. Some French they come, Scot, Irish, all them Catholic, with the Black Robes, them Jesuits. Very tough priests, them Jesuits. And they marry Indians and here we are. Some of us, we live on the reservations, some of us don't, most of us are gone, part of what America mostly is, you know. Indians call us white, whites call us Indian. So we are peacemakers, catch all the shit from everybody.”


I will rot in the earth but the music is forever, God breathes it in and out. 
(Du Prě is a talented Mĕtis fiddler.)


Poor folks make threats; rich folks do things and smile. That's all, folks.

Poor folks act like people, rich folks act like governments, thought Du Prĕ. Damn, I thought that my own self.


Richard said...

It sounds like it could be Hillerman-esque. Is it?

Joe Barone said...

Not as polished as Hillerman, but I read Bowen for the same reason I read Hillerman. Both are among my favorite writers. I have comments about a couple of his other books on this blog if you want to do a search for them. For one of them, you could probably page down about three books to find it.