Saturday, January 19, 2008

The Hands of Geronimo by Lewis B. Patten

The Hands of Geronimo by Lewis B. Patten.
ACE 31620, Copyright 1971

Lewis Patten wrote western stories and wrote a lot of them. They are all fast reads and enjoyable. There is a lot of his work out there and can be picked up easily. When you want good 50s/60s/70s vintage westerns, Patten delivers. This is one of many favorites.

Renegade Apaches under Geronimo attack a stagecoach leaving Jonas Bailey’s woman for dead, killing her baby and kidnapping her young son. Bailey determined to get the boy back, tags along with the U.S. Cavalry to go after the renegades. The story is told through Jonas Bailey, who is just a ranch hand. He knows nothing about the ways of the Apaches or the U.S. Cavalry. During his journey, he learns about the hardships soldiers endure on a long campaign. Months and months go by taking them deep into the deserts and mountains of Mexico. They become weak, starving and ragged, with their clothes literally falling off them, yet continue with their pursuit. Bailey observes how the Apaches are even worse off, but they are able to live on less and continue their drive deep into Mexico. After a long painstaking hunt, they finally reach the renegades and Bailey makes an attempt to rescue the boy. The ending is very good, with plenty of action.

Lewis Patten uses historical events in the story. Geronimo’s escape to the mountain sanctuary is factual. He also takes the liberty to use other actual characters in the story, like Tom Horn and Mickey Free. He probably made the renegade Apaches more vicious then they really were, but Patten does show the struggles they encounter during this time period. Patten shows their strong ability to survive with very little and their pride to remain free.

Overall a well told western story. It shows a snapshot of life in a U.S. Cavalry campaign. Patten captures the interaction of officers, Apache scouts, Mexican Federales and civilians. But the best part is Jonas Bailey and the story he tells, as he learns and adapts through the hardships of the long journey to save the boy.

Someone told me that it is difficult to find a copy of this paperback. I don't know if that is true.


Anonymous said...

In terms of scarcity, a quick look on ABE shows the book can be found. On the other hand, I have 77 of Patten's other books, and I don't have this one, and it sounds as though I should.

August West said...

Thanks Steve, I have some ambiguous sources and a few are "full of s..."
77 is impressive. I prefer Patten over most of the L'Amour westerns. (but I am probably in the minority on that)
Have a great day!