July 20, 2014

Burgas reviews Drums Along the Mohawk

Comic-book critic Greg Burgas reviews Drums Along the Mohawk--the original novel, that is, not the movie made from it. Some excerpts:

Trade Paperbacks, Older Editions, and Miscellaneous for October 2012

By Greg BurgasDrums Along the Mohawk by Walter D. Edmonds. 592 pgs., Little, Brown, and Company, 1936.

This has to be one of the earliest examples of a popular book being quickly turned into a movie, as John Ford’s adaptation of it (with Henry Fonda and Claudette Colbert) came out in 1939, just three years after publication.

It’s a pretty good book, remarkably modern, and pretty exciting. Edmonds has a keen eye for the detail of the Mohawk Valley in New York, probably because he was born in upstate New York.

Edmonds is good with a large cast, too–Gil and Lana are the stars, but there are plenty of others, too, showing the many different kinds of people who lived and worked during this traumatic time.
He includes a summary of the Native portrayls:Similarly, you can’t really write a book about the Mohawk Valley and not write about the natives in the area. Edmonds does a pretty good job with this, too--one of the main characters, Blue Back, is an interesting and complex character. In fact, Edmonds is even-handed about the Indians throughout--yes, they’re the main villains in the book, and the characters speak of them in disparaging terms, but Edmonds himself takes a fairly neutral tone--some Indians are allied with the settlers, after all, and Edmonds realizes that each of them has their own motivations. He even gives us a character who is raped by a Tory and later flees into the woods, where she’s found by an Indian, who takes her home and marries her. He treats her well, so when the soldier later reappears and promises to marry her, she basically tells him to fuck right off. The worst part of Edmonds’ writing about Indians is that he always, without fail, describes them as greasy and foul-smelling. He explains why they’re greasy and foul-smelling, but he really hammers home the point whenever he can. It’s kind of frustrating, because it’s weird to read fairly nuanced portrayals of the Indians’ personalities and characteristics while Edmonds is writing about how much they stink. I suppose that Edmonds could be a bit modern, but he was still a product of his times.Comment:  Burgas's final rating for the novel is 7 of 10 stars.

I've seen the movie but haven't read the book. You can read my review of it here.

As I said, the movie also offers Native portrayals that aren't black and white. I gave it an 8.0 of 10.

For more on the subject, see The Best Indian Movies.

No comments: