Shavetail : a novel

by Cobb, Thomas, 1947-

Format: Print Book 2008
Availability: Available at 1 Library 1 of 1 copy
Available (1)
Location Collection Call #
Crafton Public Library Adult - Fiction F COBB 2008 CRAFTON 4/08
Location  Crafton Public Library
Collection  Adult - Fiction
Call Number  F COBB 2008 CRAFTON 4/08

Set in 1871 in the unforgiving wasteland of the Arizona Territory, Shavetail is the story of Private Ned Thorne, a seventeen-year-old boy from Connecticut who has lied about his age to join the Army. On the run from a shameful past, Ned is desperate to prove his worth -- to his superiors, to his family, and most of all, to himself. Young and troubled, Ned is as green and stubborn as a "shavetail," the soldiers' term for a dangerous, untrained mule.

To endure in this world, Ned must not only follow the orders of the camp's captain, Robert Franklin,but also submit to the cruel manipulations of Obediah Brickner, the camp's mule driver. Both Franklin and Brickner have been damaged by their long military service, both consider themselves able to survive the dangers of the desert -- floods, scorpions, snakes, and Indians -- and both imperil Ned.

Yet there are other characters, all richly drawn, who also confront Ned: half-wit soldiers, embattled Indians hidden in cliffs, a devious and philosophical peddler, and the fleshy whores who materialize in the desert as soon as the paymaster has left camp and dance with drunken soldiers around a fire late into the night.

After a band of Apaches attack a nearby ranch, killing two men and kidnapping a young woman, Ned's lieutenant -- a man seeking atonement for his own mistakes -- leads Ned and the rest of his patrol on a near-suicidal mission through rugged mountains and into Mexico in hopes of saving the woman's life. It is unlikely any can survive this folly, and those who do will be changed forever.

Meticulously researched and vividly told, Shavetail renders a time when the United States was still an expanding empire, its western edge bloody with the deaths of soldiers, settlers, and Indians. In language both spare and brilliant, Cobb brings readers this lost American landscape, untouched by highways or electricity and without the comforts of civilization.

Shavetail also marks the return of a great American literary voice. Cobb's first and only other novel, Crazy Heart, was published in 1987 to great acclaim and was edited by the legendary editor Ted Solotaroff. Cobb is also a former student of Donald Barthelme, who described Crazy Heart as "a bitter, witty psychological profile of genius."

Brutal and deft, laced with both violence and desire, Shavetail plunges into the deepest human urges even as it marks the ground where men either survive or perish.
Published Reviews
Booklist Review: "Cobb's darkly symbolic coming-of-age tale follows Ned Thorne, a young soldier who is assigned to a remote outpost in Arizona, 1871, pursued by his own personal demons straight into a hell where the simple act of erecting a bakery to provide the soldiers with basic nourishment becomes a fatal undertaking. The boy endures his interior torments along with brutal encounters with fellow soldiers, while trying to maintain a sense of wonder with the natural world that seems just as likely to kill him as the renegade band of Apaches his patrol is assigned to track down. For all the desperation and doom, though, Cobb manages to inject a good deal of humor (in the form of a hapless simpleton wrangling such confounding complexities as the written word) and compassion (in the form of a sympathetic but ineffectual lieutenant) into the telling, in which seemingly abstract battles between right and wrong explode into life-and-death decisions, with the hand heavily tipped toward the latter. Call this a Western, but only if you also call Cormac McCarthy a cowpoke.--Chipman, Ian Copyright 2008 Booklist"
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Publisher's Weekly Review: "Set in 1871 Arizona, the second novel from Cobb (Crazy Heart) is a thoughtful western that is more character-driven adventure tale than plot-driven novel. Connecticut runaway Ned Thorne, 17, joins the cavalry and lands at Camp Grant, a nascent outpost along the edge of Arizona's Chiricahua mountains. Capt. Robert Franklin thinks his command of Camp Grant punitive duty for an earlier disastrous campaign; the discovery of a pillaged farmhouse and the kidnapping of a woman by renegade Apaches provide an opportunity for Franklin to redeem his honor. Using the actual Camp Grant massacre as a frame for the story, Cobb produces some marvelous, richly described scenes, and he does a fair job with period detail (though punctilious western fans will find some anachronisms). Setting and plot, however, are of secondary importance to the deeper developing revelations of the three main characters-the third being Lt. Anthony Austin, who leads a harrowing chase through the mountains. Their introspective analyses go a long way, but there's a disjointed sense to the whole, which teeters between straight realism and Cormac McCarthy-style flights of mysticism. The real eventually wins, and the results are less than satisfying. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved"
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Additional Information
Subjects United States. -- Army -- 19th century -- Fiction.
United States. -- Army -- Military life -- 19th century -- Fiction.
Young men -- Fiction.
Soldiers -- Fiction.
Frontier and pioneer life -- Arizona -- Fiction.
Arizona -- History -- To 1912 -- Fiction.
Western stories.
Publisher New York :Scribner,2008
Edition 1st Scribner hardcover ed.
Language English
Description 369 pages ; 24 cm
ISBN 9781416561194
Other Classic View