In January 1984, on the flight back to Wyoming after attending the Society for Historical Archaeology meetings in Boston, Richard Hamilton's story began spinning my head. Even today, so many years later, there is a qualitative difference between Boston and the rest of the world. The original manuscript, entitled THE MAN FROM BOSTON, consisted of 440 pages. The notion of a philosophy student lost in the trans-Missouri wilderness in 1825 didn't appeal to publishers at the time, and after numerous rejections, I put the manuscript away. Nevertheless, over the years, I'd pull it out, dust it off, and reread Richard and Willow's story. Over time, I added bits and pieces, cut others, and reworked the concept.
Times change, and in my agent, Matt Bialer, I found a champion for the story. After Forge books agreed to the project I went to work in earnest. The manuscript grew to some 1500 pages. When the BIG box arrived at our editor's door, Harriet panicked. Forge insisted on splitting the book in two. It went against the grain but I wrote an ending for THE MORNING RIVER and a beginning for COYOTE SUMMER. When the MORNING RIVER manuscript arrived at Tor, they were so impressed that they nominated it for both Pulitzer and the National Book Award in 1996.
MORNING RIVER and COYOTE SUMMER is a special work for me. I wanted to do a book that dealt with the incredible diversity of Indian culture on the high plains. In most books I have read, all the Indians seem to be Sioux - even if they happen to be Omaha, Arikara, or Mandan. I wanted the chance to take a pot shot at the "Politically Correct" myths we have created about the pre-contact cultures. The Plains weren't an American Eden. In the 1820s the Sioux were waging a war of extermination with everyone they encountered, including the Omaha, Arikara, Pawnee, Hidatsa, Crow, and Shoshoni.
The three main characters, Richard Hamilton, Travis Hartman, and the Shoshoni puhagan, or medicine woman, Heals Like A Willow, provided a microcosm for that period of American history. Richard is emblematic of Western thought, enamored of Rousseau and the Enlightment. Travis is the salty, pragmatic frontiersman mired in life's terrible realities, while Willow personifies the Native perspective coming face to face with the American future.
Of all the titles I have written, these books still bring more fan mail. Most plead with me to write a third book in the Richard and Willow saga. Unfortunately, at this stage, I don't have the right publisher for the work. Perhaps, someday.