When I first read this in 1996 I was struck by the ‘realism’ in the violent, unforgiving and stark portrayal of an incident in New Mexico in the mid nineteenth century. Now, re-reading it, I’m not so sure. It is well written in that Eidson holds your attention. The plot unfolds well and you are drawn into caring about the central characters.
In terms of the representation of the Apache the characters are shallow and rooted in the dime novel. They are stereotypical, demonised unfathomable beings with no discernible rationale behind their characters or humanity. This might seem rather damning but it comes down to a lack of respect for other cultures. I mean, would the Apache be happy to be presented in this way? I don’t think so. With respect being shown in some films, for example in ‘Ulzana’s Raid’ which predates this book, there is little excuse.
I was quite excited by the prospect of a film of this book. Martin Scorsese is directing it, which is promising, but I fear that the book may limit the eventual outcome, as exciting as it might be.
Sadly I don’t await the film with great expectancy since re-reading it has made me realise what was missing from ‘The Missing’ the film of Eidson’s book ‘The Last Ride’. Similarly in that book the characters divide into goodies and baddies. Robert Aldrich and Elmore Leonard, among others, have shown in films and in literature that this is not true of life, so it does not have to be true of Art, either.