Author: Michael Dante

Publisher: BearManor Media (April 26, 2017)

ISBN-10: 1629331538

ISBN-13: 978-1629331539

Winterhawk’s Land is a short 108 page novella with a very interesting backstory.

Back in 1975, actor Michael Dante starred as the title character in Winterhawk, a reasonably well-received film about a heroic Blackfoot Native American chief written, directed, and produced by Charles B. Pierce. Before this movie, Dante had built a very impressive resume starring in TV Westerns like Death Valley Days, The Big Valley, Bonanza, Maverick, Cheyenne, and non-Western series like Star Trek. Winterhawk’s Land has much of the flavor of such shows giving the new story a nostalgic feel including often stock characters and cinematic prairie settings that fans of the good old days will find comfortably familiar. With the exception of one moderately graphic scene, the story could easily serve as a drama suitable for prime time family viewing on any of those channels now serving up programming from the Golden Age of Television. 

Naturally, the book opens with a synopsis of the film which dealt with Winterhawk trying to find a cure for smallpox for his people before he is betrayed by unscrupulous white traders. Dante then dives into his literary sequel, set more than a decade after the movie, which focuses on how railroad executive Arthur Penrose sends a squad of hired assassins out to kill Winterhawk. The Native American leader is standing in the way of Penrose’s railroad being able to freely cut through Blackfoot territory. Most of the plot is Winterhawk and allies outmaneuvering Penrose’s band of morally bankrupt if more than capable murderers-for-hire.

Like many of the now classic TV Westerns of the ‘50s and ‘60s, Winterhawk’s Land is full of vividly sketched characters from the band of colorful outlaws to Winterhawk, his white wife Clayanna and their young son, as well as many of the braves who help Winterhawk make his stand against Penrose. Of course, history tells us the Blackfoot tribes can only slow down the railroads but must ultimately lose. In this tale, the historical defeat doesn’t happen until the epilogue. Up until the last paragraph of the main text, Winterhawk and his people are noble, moral, wise, brave, strong, clever . . . in short, heroic paragons. To be fair, we do get good, decent white characters, but the story depends on good Indians outthinking and out-fighting bad white guys.  

There’s no reason to think viewing the 1975 movie is a prerequisite for enjoying this short read. Like a one-hour episode of those good old classic TV oaters, Winterhawk’s Land is engaging but not deep, predictable and warm, easily digestible and suitable for reruns whenever you want to revisit the days of 19th century Old West legends.   I have to admit, I can’t picture Dawn Wells (MaryAnn on  Gilligan’s Island) as Clayanna, a role she played in the 1975 original. On the other hand, if you recall Michael Dante’s chiseled face and muscled limbs, picturing the author as the main character is no stretch. Anyway, like I said, seeing the 1975 Charles B. Pierce production isn’t required before reading this long belated sequel.