Mackenna's Gold by Will Henry
For comforting an old Apache during his last dying hours, prospector Glen Mackenna is bestowed with the secret location of the Lost Canyon of Gold. Called Sno-ta-hay by the Apache, the canyon is a sacred place where mass amounts of gold are protected by ancient spirits. After memorizing the map even though he believes this is just a fable, Mackenna is then captured by the ugly renegade half-breed Pelon Lopez and his band of outlaw Indians. Pelon wants Mackenna to lead them to Sno-ta-hay and to persuade him to do so he holds a white girl hostage. Well, the adventure begins and along the way there are plenty of killings, a cavalry of Buffalo Soldiers hunting them down, forced alliances with nasty villains, and the truth about the legend of the Lost Adams Diggings at the Canyon of Gold.
What might lie ahead for his companions, he could not begin to imagine. What lay ahead for himself, he did not dare to think about. For the moment, only one thing was to be regarded as absolute certain: in such a company of human animals as that with whom he now loped through the desert night, death was no farther away than the nearest member of the pack.
Written by Will Henry (Henry Wilson Allen) in 1963, Mackenna’s Gold packs quite a bit of action in an evenly-paced Western novel. Though not a masterpiece, the plot that is spun around the quest for the gold is very good. In reality, there is a legend of the Lost Adams Diggings (a man named Adams boasted of finding the gold-filled canyon in 1864) and even today fanatics search for this legendary lost canyon. The Adams tale is the driving force in Mackenna’s Gold. And when you mix in the ragtag pursuit for the gold, Will Henry spins a decent Western story here. But I did have a few problems with the novel, most of them revolve around the characters. Mackenna comes off like a cream puff, he toughens up at the end but his image is cast early in the story. The hostage white girl is never really developed by Will Henry and only seems to be in the story as an excuse to force Mackenna to show the renegades the way. And Pelon is a total enigma. At times he is a vile, violent, ignorant killer and then later he acts almost Shakespearean as he rants to Mackenna about compassion and fate. It’s the pure-blood Native American characters in the story that captivate the reader. Pelon’s mother and sister, who are along on the quest, are the most intriguing of the group. Henry details their past and they play important roles in the outcome of the story. Another Indian called Hachita, who shows compassion towards Mackenna, extends to the reader a sense of the lost wonders of the American Indian way of life. Like a heart that has been touched by the sound of the water and the songbirds in the canyons, Hachita portrays a stature of honesty and morality when compared to all the other characters in the novel. I really liked the Hachita and Henry did a good job with the character.
Overall, I liked “Mackenna’s Gold.” Will Henry always has something going on in the story. The book has an underlying theme about the craze for gold and the consequences of tampering with sacred legend. And the history surrounding the Lost Adams Diggings is so damn interesting, it keeps the reader glued to the pages.
Not perfect, but it still is a good Western adventure.
Sunday, October 10, 2010
Mackenna's Gold by Will Henry