I’m a bit behind in my posts here. I had the opportunity to narrate this book some time ago but just hadn’t gotten this together until now. By “this book” I mean, of course, Custer’s Brother’s Horse by Edwin Shrake.
As you may know, Edwin “Bud” Shrake was a journalist and screenwriter as well as a novelist. During his career Mr. Shrake spent some 15 years writing for Sports Illustrated. He authored a number of non-fiction works, including a biography of his friend Willie Nelson and a series of books about golf with Harvey Penick. Custer’s Brother’s Horse was Edwin Shrake’s last novel, having been preceded by Blood Reckoning, But Not For Love, Blessed McGill, Strange Peaches, Peter Arbiter, Limo (with Dan Jenkins), Night Never Falls, The Borderland: A Novel of Texas, and Billy Boy.
I have to admit that when I saw the title of the book, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I hadn’t read any of Shrake’s previous novels. I found it quite interesting. The characters he populated the story with were very diverse – from a stoic Texas scion to a colorful British adventurer to a beautiful young New Orleans soothsayer. And those were just the three that were traveling together! Of course, the time in which this story is set was a very interesting one for Texans, and Shrake does a good job of providing and then using the historical context into which he places his characters.
Here is a brief synopsis -
A young Confederate captain with a grisly past as a cavalry raider in Tennessee is on his way home to his family plantation north of Houston in the last days of the Civil War. In Austin, Capt. Jerod Robin is accused of murder and is thrown into the stockade by U.S. Army Capt. Santana Leatherwood, a Texan whose family has feuded bitterly for decades with the Robin family. In the stockade Robin meets British novelist and adventurer Edmund Varney, in Austin to write the life story of Lt. Tom Custer, heroic younger brother of famous General George Armstrong Custer. Varney is charged with attempting to steal Tom Custer’s legendary warhorse, Athena, upon whose back Custer recently won two Congressional Medals of Honor. The two prisoners stand trial beside a 16-year-old mulatto girl, Flora Bowprie, who has come from New Orleans searching for her father but has been arrested as a runaway slave. Homicidal events cause the rebel captain, the British author and the young fortuneteller to flee from a Cavalry squad led by Santana Leatherwood and Tom Custer, mounted on his great Arabian horse. The story races to the inevitable showdown between the Robins and Leatherwoods, two families on opposite sides in the Civil War. But, before the final confrontation Jerod Robin hears a dark accusation about his birth and his mother that lends a special ferocity to the showdown. Then the story of “Custer’s Brother’s Horse” takes a surprising twist. This is a horse for the ages.