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In this great American masterpiece, which served as the basis for the classic John Wayne film, two men with very different agendas push their endurance beyond all faith and hope to find a little girl captured by the Comanche.

352 pages, Mass Market Paperback

First published January 1, 1954

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About the author

Alan LeMay

59 books31 followers
Alan Brown Le May was an American novelist and screenplay writer. He is most remembered for two classic Western novels, The Searchers and The Unforgiven. They were adapted into the motion pictures "The Searchers" and "The Unforgiven".

He also wrote or co-wrote the screenplays for "North West Mounted Police" (1940), "Reap the Wild Wind" (1942), "Blackbeard the Pirate" (1952). He wrote the original source novel for "Along Came Jones" (1945), as well as a score of other screenplays and an assortment of other novels and short stories. Le May wrote and directed "High Lonesome" (1950). Le May also wrote and produced (but did not direct) "Quebec" (1951.

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Profile Image for Jeffrey Keeten.
Author 3 books248k followers
June 28, 2020
”A man has to learn to forgive himself,” Amos said, his voice unnaturally gentle….”Or he can’t stand to live. It so happens we be Texans. We took a reachin’ holt, way far out, past where any man has right or reason to hold on. Or it we didn’t, our folks did, so we can’t leave off, without giving up that they were fools, wasting their lives, and washed in the way they died.”

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The moment of realization.

Amos Edwards and Marty Pauley are helping to retrieve some cattle that have been stolen from a neighboring homestead when they discover that it was a feint by the Comanches to pull as many guns away from the settlements as possible. They are too far away to do much but watch helplessly as plumes of smoke ascend into the sky confirming their worst fears. When Amos comes to the homestead he is calling for his sister-in-law Martha not his brother Henry. His secret, that isn’t so secret, is that he carried a torch for Martha and she carried a torch for him so elegantly portrayed in the movie with a scene showing her brushing his coat lovingly with her hand. I know a lot more people have seen the truly magnificent movie made of The Searchers than have read the book, for the movie they changed the name of Amos to Ethan. The scene continues with Ethan/Amos about to kiss Martha. You can see that he wants to kiss her lips and she would let him, but with willpower he kisses her forehead instead. The sexual tension crackles.

With what happens, I’m sure he wished he’d folded her in his arms and locked onto her lips for all he was worth.

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Martha, played by Dorothy Jordan, with Ethan's coat.

In the movie John Wayne comes up on the homestead on fire. He finds Martha’s dress in tatters outside. He goes inside to look for her. He comes back out a shattered man. He refuses to let Marty go into the burning building. In fact he slugs him to keep him out because he doesn’t want to go back in there either. I remember the chills that went up my spine when I first saw the movie and thinking to myself if John Wayne couldn’t handle it I don’t want to see it. All the brutality is brilliantly kept off screen throughout the whole movie leaving our own active imaginations to conjure the scenes for ourselves.

This begins an epic search for Debbie Edwards, the young girl taken by the Comanches. It spans many years and many miles as Amos and his not so welcome companion, Marty, track down every band of Comanches hoping to find her so they can work out a trade or if need be take her back by force. Well, that is Marty’s plan. Once she’s been with “bucks” Edwards believes the only decent thing to do is kill her. Marty knows he might have to stand between Amos and Debbie when the time comes.

Marty is an orphan that the Edwards raised after his parents were killed. He thinks of himself as part of the family, but Amos sets him straight.

”Debbie’s my brother’s young’n,” Amos said. “She’s my flesh and blood--not yours. Better you leave these things to the people concerned with ‘em, boy. Debbie’s no kin to you at all.”

“I--I always felt like she was my kin.”

“Well, she ain’t.”

“Our--I mean, her --her folks took me in off the ground. I’d be dead but for them. They even--”

“That don’t make ‘em any kin.”

“All right. I ain’t got no kin. Never said I had. I’m going to keep on looking, that’s all.”

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Personally, I don’t want anyone looking at me that way. *shiver*

Amos is a hard son-of-a-bitch. Just like with the movie you move from one moment to wanting to kick his rear end up into his neck to the next moment wanting to give him a hug. The conflict between Amos and Marty continues for the entire book between divergent personal philosophies and even who has the right to be on this crusade.

”Like most prairie men, they had great belief in their abilities, but a total faith in their bad luck.”

What really comes across in the book is the legitimacy of the writer. The dialogue, the descriptions of the way of life, and the depictions of the scenery are magnificently portrayed.

”Now came the first of the snow, a thin lacing of ice needles, heard and felt before they could be seen. The ice particles were traveling horizontally, parallel to the ground, with an enormous velocity. They made a sharp whispering against the leather, drove deep into cloth, and filled the air with hissing. This thin bombardment swiftly increased, coming in puffs and clouds, then in a rushing stream. And at the same time the wind increased…It tore at them, snatching their breaths from their mouths, and its gusts buffeted their backs as solidly as thrown sacks of grain…”

 photo 233ea77c-053a-44f0-bd63-559acec93d7e_zpsd1952abf.png

John Ford, using VistaVision, captured some of the most stunning scenes of Monument Valley I’ve ever seen. In fact the scenes are the most amazing shots I’ve ever seen of the epic scope of nature in any movie.

A lot of the dialogue in the movie is lifted from the book. There is, of course, more in the book. The search is described in more detail than what Ford had time for on film. For those purists out there you will either not be unhappy with the book or the movie because they do part ways, in particular with the endings. Truly, you have to treat them as two separate entities. Both contribute, adding additional layers, to the overall story.

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Wonderful framing of John Wayne in the doorway at the end of the movie. He is putting his hand on his elbow as a tribute to Harry Carey Sr. who always held his arm that way.

John Wayne’s performance in The Searchers is truly a work of art. For those that think the man can’t act watch this movie. His face betrays loathing, simmering anger, and determination like I’ve never seen him do before. He should have won an Oscar for this role, certainly at least a nomination, but the film was entirely ignored by the Academy receiving zero nominations. It resides high on every serious list of greatest movies ever made. I would have to agree. The book that inspired the movie was well worth my time. It added to my enjoyment of rewatching the movie.

You might also like my review of the new biography of John Wayne by Scott Eyman
Profile Image for Matt.
918 reviews28.3k followers
June 8, 2016
I was a huge John Wayne fan growing up. Like, embarrassingly huge. I had a framed picture in my bedroom. I had a thick celebratory magazine that provided descriptions of every single one of his movies (some 200 or more, including bit parts). I had a John Wayne paper doll collection! Whenever a cable station had a “John Wayne Weekend,” I’d buy a stack of VHS tapes and record for hours on end. I loved his drawl, his catchphrases, his swagger, and his big right hook.

Eventually, I grew up, and my childhood icon changed. Or rather, I changed, because the Duke was already dead nearly a year when I was born. By the time I graduated college, Wayne was no longer the paragon of American virtues – the stolid Sergeant Stryker of The Sands of Iwo Jima, the noble Army lifer Captain Nathan Brittles in She Wore A Yellow Ribbon. Instead, Wayne turned (or rather my view of him turned him) into a bit of a gaseous hypocrite.

I came to see him as the man who’d discovered some old “football injuries” to keep him out of World War II, made a fortune playacting as a soldier, and then filmed an unabashedly jingoistic pro-Vietnam film advocating for a cause that killed thousands of young American men who didn't have the benefit of “football injuries” or college deferments. (As an aside: The Green Berets is so, so bad, the only way it can be viewed is as a parody).

These days, my feelings for Wayne are on a more even keel. I don’t love him or hate him but mostly view him through the tinge of nostalgia (like most people, I suppose). I’ve come to accept his complexities – and he was complex, not an all-American patriot but not a right-wing nut either.

Through these shifting sands, there is one John Wayne movie I have always loved, from youth to political awakening to today. And that is Wayne’s collaboration with John Ford in The Searchers. It is accessible – for a kid – because it is a western, because it involves horses and six-shooters, and because it ends with a bugle charge. For an adult, it is a complex psycho-sexual drama, a layered cinematic masterpiece that distracts you with magnificent vistas while darkness simmers below the surface.

Back when I was young, and it was still hard to find out-of-print books, my mom managed to get me a copy of Alan Lemay’s The Searchers, the book upon which the movie was based. I started reading it, but quit shortly after starting, mostly because I was young and stupid and angry that the book and movie weren’t exactly alike.

I picked it up recently in anticipation of Glenn Frankel’s book on the making of The Searchers (the movie) and discovered something a bit amazing: it’s quite good.

Frankly, I was expecting pulp. It was published in 1954, after all, and the back pages advertise other western “adventures” with names like Death Valley Slim, Apache Rampage, and Montana Rides Again. Now, I don’t mean to oversell it, but The Searchers has more in common – tonally and ambition-wise – with Cormac McCarthy.

Like the movie, the novel is built upon the kidnapping of a young white girl – little Debbie Edwards – who is taken by the Comanche after her family is murdered. Two men set out to find her. One of them is her uncle, Amos Edwards, a mysterious, taciturn man who has lived his life on the borderland between civilization and savagery. The other is Martin Pauley, an orphan who was taken in by the Edwards family after his own family was massacred by Indians.

The search consumes many years and witnesses fading tracks, dead leads, brutal encounters with both whites and Indians, fierce weather, and dimming hope.

The movie version of The Searchers features John Wayne in the Amos role (named Ethan in the film). The essential drama comes not from Wayne’s search itself, but from his motive. Why does he want to find Debbie after all these years? You are never certain whether he means to kill her – to save her from “the fate worse than death” – or actually bring her home.

The novel’s Amos contains some of that ambiguity. Certainly, he is an Indian hater to the extreme. But the main focus is actually on Martin Pauley. His search for Debbie is subsumed in his larger search for his place in the world. (The typical orphan literary arc).

If that seems a bit pat, the conceit is rescued by Alan Le May’s execution. He is no sympathizer of the Comanche, but at least he has taken the time to learn their culture and customs, research that is nicely interwoven throughout the narrative. The Comanche in the novel are people; just people that Le May and his characters don’t like. (The depth of Amos’s hatred is wonderfully demonstrated by his thoroughgoing knowledge of his enemy).

Le May’s grasp of the material extends beyond Indian lore, to include frontier architecture, the finer arts of tracking, and a lot about horses.

The dialogue sometimes falls victim to being overly cowboy-ish, the kind of thing you’d hear on the silver screen in the 30s, 40s, or 50s. But just as often it is punchy, evocative, and frontier-elegant:

“Sometimes it seems to me,” Amos said, “them Comanches fly with their elbows, carrying the pony along between their knees. You can nurse a horse along till he falls and dies, and you walk on carrying your saddle. Then a Comanche comes along, and gets that horse up, and rides it twenty miles more. Then eats it…Yes…we got a chance…And I’ll tell you what it be. An Indian will chase a thing until he thinks he’s chased it enough. Then he quits. So the same when he runs. After awhile he figures we must have quit, and he starts to loaf. Seemingly he never learns there’s such a thing as a critter that might just keep coming on.”

Le May’s description of the wild frontier is first rate. One of the best parts of the novel is, of all things, a set-piece description of a sudden blizzard:

Now came the first of the snow, a thin lacing of ice needles, heard and felt before they could be seen. The ice particles were traveling horizontally, parallel to the ground, with an enormous velocity. They made a sharp whispering against the leather, drove deep into cloth, and filled the air with hissing. This thin bombardment swiftly increased, coming in puffs and clouds, then in a rushing stream. And at the same time the wind increased…It tore at them, snatching their breaths from their mouths, and its gusts buffeted their backs as solidly as thrown sacks of grain…

The Searchers is just over 300 pages long, but manages to evoke an epic scope. To be sure, a novel like this necessarily has repetitive aspects. You follow a lot of trails, meet a lot of characters, but always you know that Debbie won’t be there, at least until there are fewer pages left.

Still, the journey is worth the effort: for Le May’s beautiful images; his psychological insights; and for an ending that you won’t see coming, even if you happen to have watched the movie.
Profile Image for Charlie Parker.
167 reviews33 followers
March 27, 2023
Centauros del desierto

Novela publicada en 1954 por Alan Le May, ambientada en la década de 1870 en Texas. Época de la frontera en la que convivían colonos pioneros y los indios norteamericanos.

Esta convivencia no era pacífica y ante la presión de los colonos, los indios se rebelaban arrasando pequeños asentamientos matando a los habitantes del lugar, pero llevándose a las niñas pequeñas y jóvenes.

Este es el caso de esta historia, dos hombres van a tomar la misión de buscar a dos niñas raptadas por una tribu comanche. Este suceso está basado en un echo real ocurrido en la década de los años 1830. La chica se llamaba Cynthia Anne Parker.

Amos, tío de las niñas, es un hombre solitario, atormentado, racista, odia a los indios y a todo el mundo, su obsesión de vagar sin rumbo fijo es lo que le da fuerzas para buscar sin descanso.
Amos dice que el indio: “no concibe que exista una criatura que persista en una persecución hasta el final”. Este personaje también está basado en una persona real, se llamaba James Parker que recorrió 8000 km, la mayoría en solitario, en busca de su sobrina.

Martin, es hermanastro de las niñas, medio indio, fue rescatado cuando era niño y criado por la familia. Amos no lo considera uno de ellos, no es de la misma sangre. La figura de Martin es el contrapunto a la de Amos, durante la historia irá afianzando su posición haciéndole frente. Juntos van a embarcarse en la búsqueda vagando de un sitio a otro como centauros en el desierto.

El personaje de Amos es el que marca el libro. Un hombre sin hogar, desarraigado, obsesionado con la búsqueda al mismo tiempo que trata de encontrarse a sí mismo. Persigue a los comanches más allá de toda lógica con más ansia de venganza que el motivo principal.

Es difícil separar esta novela de la película de John Ford y John Wayne con el mismo título, considerada como la cumbre del western y una de las mejores de siempre. Es la película de la que más hablan los directores de cine en cuanto a influencias en su carrera. El libro es más serio, extenso y duro que la película. En él se describe la masacre india de la familia mientras que en la película no se muestra nada, se intuye. Hay ligeras diferencias entre ambas con un final diferente. Y es que John Ford crea una película a su estilo, planos geniales al comienzo y final, desde el interior de la casa con el marco en negro y viendo el horizonte del desierto, además de monumentales escenas en exterior durante todo el film.

Alan Le May cuando describió a su personaje parecía que lo tenía preparado para Wayne:
“Amos Edwards tenía cuarenta años, dos años más que su hermano Henry, y lucía una figura corpulenta y voluminosa sobre una montura fuerte pero lenta." En la película se llama Ethan.

Tanto libro como película tienen el titulo original “The Searches”, Los Buscadores, sería la traducción literal en español y, en realidad, es cierto, los dos protagonistas buscan a las chicas y no hay más que hablar. Pero, en aquel tiempo, los títulos de las películas sufrían enormemente al traducirse a otros idiomas intentando adecuarse a la cultura de cada país. Mientras que en Hispanoamérica le pusieron el titulo de “Más corazón que odio” en Francia y Bélgica optaron por “La prisonnière du désert” o en Portugal por “A Desaparecida”.

Todos estos títulos palidecen ante el glorioso español de “Centauros del desierto” un título místico que hace honor a su grandeza. Para la publicación del libro en español por la editorial Valdemar en su colección Frontera, en 2013, en el título se ha mantenido esta simetría entre libro y película.
No puedo terminar sin recomendar tanto el libro como la película, una detrás de la otra. Aunque da igual, son eternas, siempre estarán ahí para cuando se necesiten.

Letra de la canción “The searches” con la que comienza y termina la película. Define muy bien al personaje de Amos/Ethan.

Qué lleva a un hombre a andar errante
Qué lleva a un hombre a vagar sin rumbo
A abandonar cama y mesa
Y dar la espalda a su propio hogar
Cabalga sin destino
Cabalga sin destino

Un hombre explorará
Su corazón y su alma
Buscará una salida en el camino
Su paz interior
Sabe que la hallará
Pero dónde, oh señor
Señor, dónde
Cabalga sin destino
Cabalga sin destino

Música de Max Steiner

Profile Image for Jim.
365 reviews90 followers
August 4, 2018
I've seen the movie so many times that I couldn't put a number to it; I thought I would finally get around to reading the source material. I'm gonna say it, and I can only remember saying this once before, "The movie was better!" Not that the book wasn't good, but the movie was a masterpiece...some critics have argued that it was the best movie ever filmed.

Odd about reading the book after seeing the movie...had I read the book first I would never have pictured Monument Valley as the type of landscape that the events occurred in. John Ford's favourite filming spot is spectacular, but it ain't cattle country. So I had that difficulty, picturing Monument Valley when the author was actually describing different terrain.

I think people will be familiar enough with the story that I needn't say too much about it here. Suffice it to say that the screenwriters took a really good story and made it better. Fans of the movie needn't avoid the book because they feel they know the story already; the screenwriters have altered the tale enough as to put the outcome in some doubt.

Le May knows his stuff, for the most part, and his dialogue is really well done...so much so that much of it was excerpted almost word for word by Ford. He plays it safe with a lot of the data, referring to a pistol or revolver without specification of type. On one of the rare occasions that he gets specific, he gets himself into trouble: on Page 17, Le May writes that the shutters on the Edwards home were "heavy enough to stop a 30-30". Now the events in the book are taking place four years after the Civil War, so I make that out to be about 1869. The .30-30 was first introduced in the 1894 Winchester, so Lemay anticipated the introduction of that cartridge by a good quarter century.

If the reader has never seen the movie, they will really enjoy the book. And if the reader has already seen the movie, they will probably still enjoy the book but they will be shaking the noggin saying "Nuh-uh! That's not the way it happened!"
Profile Image for Algernon (Darth Anyan).
1,495 reviews962 followers
July 22, 2022

“Too bad there wasn’t more of ‘em,” Colonel Hammond said. “That’s the only disappointing thing.”

History is written by the conquerors, and not by the defeated people. The remarks I have picked to open my review come from the commander of a night raid against a Comanche camp, in which the soldiers killed indiscriminately men, women and children and then searched through the debris for proof that these Indians were criminals and guilty of past attacks on settlers. The only prior reason for the attack was that they were inherently dangerous, and needed to be taught a lesson.
That lesson being that ‘the only good Indian is a dead Indian’.

My blood still boils over in anger over the portrayal of Native Americans in this celebrated epic novel, but a valid argument could be made that the author has written an accurate account of the prevalent opinion about Indians at the time these events took place. This is exactly how the settlers and the Army looked at the conquest of the West.

But they had come out here that long ago, drawn by these miles and miles of good grass, free to anyone who dared expose himself to the Kiowas and the Comanches. It hadn’t looked so dangerous when they first came, for the Texas Rangers had just punished the Wild Tribes back out of the way.

That the ‘free’ land belonged to the Wild Tribes is never mentioned, just as another country in modern times pretends the occupied lands in Palestine were empty and unused and the settlers are better equipped to take care of the land than the natives.

Repeatedly, throughout the novel, Comanches and the other tribes are never referred to as human beings. They are ‘bucks’ or ‘varmints’ or ‘filth’ no better than wild animals than need to be put down in order for civilization to prosper. Blacks are not even once mentioned, despite events taking place immediately after the Civil War, and Mexicans are subject to the same rabid racism directed at the Tribes:

Mart had always heard the Comancheros described as a vicious, slinking, cowardly breed, living like varmints in unbelievable filth.

War against such despicable animals is justified and described euphemistically as an ‘armed disagreement with Mexico’ . Peace with the Tribes is ‘the fatheaded wishfulness that had disarmed more American troops than any other enemy’. while genocide becomes a cleaning out campaign, justified by false equivalents and projections of one’s own prejudice.

“I see something now,” Mart said, “I never used to understand. I see now why the Comanches murder our women when they raid – brain our babies even – what ones they don’t pick to steal. It’s so we won’t breed. They want us off the earth. I understand that, because that’s what I want for them. I want them dead. All of them. I want them cleaned off the face of the world.”

Even the righteous search for the missing girl is tainted by the expressed view that she is ‘damaged goods’ and better off dead because One sleep with Indians – you’re a mare – a sow – they take what they want of you.


Having vented my modern indignation over the sensitive issue of racial profiling, I must admit that Alan Le May is a hell of a good writer. Allegedly he has done extensive background studies for the period, and it shows in the way he describes the settlers in West Texas, the Army forts and the few details of Native American culture.

“Sometimes it seems to me”, Amos said, “them Comanches fly with their elbows, carrying the pony along between their knees. You can nurse a horse along till he falls and dies, and you walk on carrying your saddle. Then a Comanche comes along, and gets that horse up, and rides it twenty miles more. Then eats it.”

The best passages are his descriptions of the vastness of the land, the killing weather and the perseverance of the men who refuse to accept defeat. No matter what my personal opinions are about the way the Tribes were systematically eradicated, the novel remains a milestone in the genre for the strength of Le May characters and for his evocative prose.

It never occurred to them that their search was stretching out into a great extraordinary feat of endurance; an epic of hope without faith, of fortitude without reward, of stubborness past all limits of reason. They simply kept on, doing the next thing, because they always had one more place to go, following out one more forlorn-hope try.

Maybe it was a good thing that a man and his plodding horse could not see that country from the sky, as the vultures saw it. If a man could have seen the vastness in which he was a speck, the heart would have gone out of him;


After finishing the book I decided to re-watch the John Ford movie version, of which I remembered practically nothing from my youth.
Evidently, John Ford couldn’t include everything in his adaptation and some of the best scenes were shortened or absent, in particular the battle episodes and most of the exhausting, years-long search. They were replaced by picture-postcard landscapes from Monument Valley, by some inappropriate touches of humour and by a Hollywood style romance with happy ending.
In John Ford’s defence, the movie came out in 1956, and John Wayne did the best he could with the material he was given. Personally, I think this is not the best movie in the list of both artists, but I understand how it became so popular.
Profile Image for Charles  van Buren.
1,713 reviews179 followers
December 1, 2021
Not just one of the great western novels, but a great American novel. Of course it has been popularized by the John Ford movie staring John Wayne and other fine actors. The film follows the first part of the book closely enough that people who have watched the movie are in familiar territory. There is enough divergence that reading the novel is worth while.

Alan LeMay was a prolific and successful author including script writing. He even tried his hand at directing. Usually his two greatest novels are considered to be THE SEARCHERS and UNFORGIVEN.
Profile Image for Susan Stuber.
194 reviews106 followers
October 10, 2015
If you are interested in the last years of the native Americans in Texas, and you want a highly nuanced, well-written and enthralling story to go with it, this is your book. I found it ever so much better than Lonesome Dove and The Son. LeMay does not try to make any of his characters into heros or villains, he simply tells the story (beautifully, without pathos) and lets the reader make his/her own opinions of who was morally right and wrong. There is no pat plot here, no foreseeable outcome, up to the very last line of the book. And though LeMay does not endeavour to make us feel one way or another about the characters, you feel very touched by all their plights, and you have a new understanding, in the end, of what life was like on the Texas frontier back in those days.
Profile Image for Bob Brinkmeyer.
Author 9 books48 followers
July 12, 2020
Mention The Searchers and most people will think of John Ford’s film, generally regarded as one of the finest Westerns ever made. The novel from which the film was adapted, Alan LeMay’s The Searchers, while not up to the artistry of the film, is nonetheless a fine novel, particularly for lovers of Westerns. What is particularly impressive is LeMay’s deep knowledge of the land (Texas and New Mexico) and its history, including most notably Native American history and culture. You’ll learn a lot—or at least, I did—while being swept along by the adventure tale.

The story is well known by this point: after the family of Henry Edwards is killed by a raiding party of Commanches, two men, Amos Edwards and Martin Pauley, begin an epic quest to find the family’s youngest daughter, Debbie, who has been kidnapped by the Indians. Amos is the brother of Henry, and Martin is the adopted son of the Edwards, his family itself killed years before in an Indian raid. Besides the ongoing search for Debbie, stretching out for over 6 years, the novel’s focus is the developing relationship between Amos and Martin. Amos is a skilled cowboy and former soldier (a Confederate veteran), while Martin is a young man of 20 or so, awash with energy but with much to learn about life and survival on the trail. Their journey together is filled with dangerous encounters and missed opportunities, with a good bit of comedy thrown in, as Amos rarely misses an opportunity to let Martin know when he’s done something particularly silly or foolish. But Martin grows up quickly and before long the two stand almost as equals, facing the challenges of the trail and the assortment of nefarious people they run into along the way.

The novel was published in 1954, a time when the Civil Rights Movement was gearing up, and the issue of race circulates throughout the novel. Westerns and other forms of popular culture frequently explore timely social issues, often obliquely. Here the prevalent national fear of black men raping white women is rewritten into the captivity of Debbie and her possible rape by her Indian captors (Debbie’s elder sister, it should be noted, was apparently raped and killed by the raiding party). The disagreement between Amos and Martin regarding Debbie’s fate becomes the means to interrogate the issue. Amos, the former Confederate, is adamant that Debbie is basically dead to the world if she has been violated by or has married an Indian, going so far as to suggest that he will shoot her (an honor killing, it seems) if she is thus found. Having grown up with Debbie and thus being closer to her than Amos is, Martin is aghast at Amos’s thoughts and intentions. Indeed, as he makes clear, Martin continues on the search as much to save Debbie from Amos as from the Indians. (In the film, Ford develops the racial themes even more than LeMay—and changes the ending in a dramatic commentary on the issue).

For lovers of Westerns and more generally popular culture, The Searchers is a must read. Readers who appreciate only high art will be disappointed but general readers will find it engaging if not always thoroughly compelling.
Profile Image for robin friedman.
1,794 reviews221 followers
June 27, 2021
Reading The Searchers

Alan Le May's 1954 novel "The Searchers" is a victim of its own success. John Ford adapted the novel into the glorious 1956 film of the same name starring John Wayne while Le May's novel went out of print and was almost forgotten. Fortunately, Le May's novel is accessible on Kindle and is about to become even more so with the Library of America's impending publication of its new anthology, "The Western: Four Classic Novels of the 1940's & 50's". The LOA volume will help preserve and encourage the reading of novels in this sometimes slighted genre. Le May (1899 -- 1964) led a varied life as a journalist, novelist , screenwriter and rancher. His "The Searchers" is worth knowing in its own right.

The story is sometimes compared to "The Odyssey" in its epic story of a life of wandering in search of home and of a woman. The book reminded me of Melville's novel of searching "Moby-Dick" in, among other things, the intensity and monomania of the seekers. The story reminds me as well of the William Butler Yeats poem, "The Song of Wandering Aegnus" in the mystical intensity of the search and the seekers.

Le May's novel is set in Texas and New Mexico in the 1870s during the presidency of U.S. Grant. A Comanche raiding party destroys the home of a struggling family of pioneers. The family is killed with the exception of two daughters, Lucy, 17, and Debbie, 10. With the destruction of the home, a group of homesteaders head out in pursuit. The pursuit soon reduces to two individuals, Amos, 40, the older brother of the homesteader who had lived a wandering life and had been secretly in love with his brother's wife, and Martin, who had been raised by the family since childhood after his own family and home had fallen victim to a Comanche raid. Those in pursuit of the raiders soon learn of the tragic death of Lucy. Amos and Martin search out by themselves in pursuit of young Debbie. The pursuit expands in time and space and ultimately continues for six years.

This novel has an epic sweep in its portrayal of the vast prairies during the six year search through Winters of cold and blizzards and Summers of blistering heat. With the majesty and unending breadth of the land, the book develops characters and situations of ambiguity and complexity. The novel celebrates the fortitude of the homesteaders and pioneers in the face of danger, poverty and isolation. Le May early describes them as "lonely, self-sufficient people, who saw each other only a few times a year." Le May also has a strong sense of human mortality and of the mystery of life as his characters search resolutely through the prairie. He writes in describing the early days of the search: "All men grew old unless violence overtook them first; the plains offered no third way out of the predicament a man found himself in, simply by the fact of his existence on the face of the earth."

But there is another side to the book's admiration of the settlers and of their fortitude. As the book proceeds, the reader learns more of the Comanche and other Indian tribes. They are portrayed with substantial understanding as fighting for their home and way of life in the face of encroachment by the irresistible force of the United States Army. The characters and motivations of the settlers, particularly the two searchers, also receive close examination. The six year search consumes Amos and Martin and destroys the possibility of a meaningful, settled life. The two seekers return three times in the course of the search to the one remaining homestead in their region where young Martin is reminded repeatedly of the offered love he is throwing away. The homestead scenes in this book remind me of the scenes in "Moby-Dick" when the "Pequod" is approached by other whaling ships to be reminded of the nature of domesticity and of home life.

As the search proceeds, it becomes clear to Martin and to the reader that Amos is little interested in recovering and bringing home the stolen young girl. He passionately hates the Comanches, probably due largely to the war party's killing of his brother's wife in the raid. For six years, Amos pursues with blood and hatred in his heart the goal of killing Indians. He is also obsessed with what he sees as the likelihood of sexual relations between Debbie and Comanche men.

The six year search in its madness and glory together with the story of the wars with the Comanche is captured poignantly in this novel. If it lacks something of the poetry and visual sweep of John Ford's film adaptation, it has a grit and understanding of its own. I was glad to get to know this too little known classic of Western and American literature.

Robin Friedman
Profile Image for Chrisl.
607 reviews87 followers
January 3, 2020
Never saw the movie. Haven't been able to connect well with his other books. The Comanche kept me interested.

Quote from Alan LeMay, The Searchers :

“The Comanches were supposed to be the most literal-minded of all the tribes. There are Indians who live in a poetic world, half of the spirit, but the Comanches were a tough-minded, practical people, who laughed at the religious ceremonies of other tribes as crazy-Indian foolishness. They had no official medicine men, no pantheon of named gods, no ordered theology. Yet they lived very close to the objects of the earth around them, and sensed in rocks, and winds, and rivers, spirits as living as their own. They saw themselves as of one piece with a world in which nothing was without a spirit.”

“ … Perhaps it was that, and knowing where he was, that accounted for what happened next. Or maybe scars, almost as old as he was, were still in existence down at the bottom of his mind, long buried under everything that had happened in between. …”
Profile Image for Ben Loory.
Author 25 books680 followers
July 14, 2010
it's funny, i've probably seen the john ford version of this book 25-30 times, and it never once even occurred to me that it might be based on a book... it took david mamet's mentioning it as one of his five favorite novels to get me to actually look into it. it's a very different kind of book than True Grit, the other western on mamet's list... slower, longer, straighter, never funny... it's calm and spacious and mythic but still realistic, informative while still always emotional. the ending is different from the movie; both have their pros and cons... i think i prefer the movie's, but the last page of this hits pretty damn hard. still a notch below Warlock and Blood Meridian as far as westerns go in my book, but it's a different kind of thing. sadder, lonelier; an older world farther away, with less ego, less author, less show. there aren't even towns in this book, only land. and sky. and indians. and memories.

it also made me realize one of the reasons i don't tend to like contemporary "literary" fiction. it's obvious, but: there's never a sense of danger. everyone lives in safety and has a million options. if somehow they don't see them, they come off as blind or stupid. it's kind of hard to care about such people. (unless they're crazy.)

It was Mart's first mounted close action, and what he saw of it was all hell coming at him, personally. A war pony went down under his horse at the first bone-cracking shock; his horse tripped, but got over the fallen pony with a floundering leap, and Comanches were all around him. Both lines disappeared in a yelling mix, into which Comanches seemed to lace endlessly from all directions. They rode low on the sides of their ponies, stabbing upward with their lances, and once within reach they never missed. If a man side-slipped in the saddle to avoid being gutted, a deep groin thrust lifted him and dropped him to be trampled. Only chance was to pistol your enemy before his lance could reach you. The gun reached farther than the lance, and hit with a shock that was final; but every shot was a snapshot, and nobody missed twice. You had five bullets, and only five--the hammer being carried on an empty cylinder--to get you through it all.
Profile Image for Jaime.
49 reviews14 followers
June 5, 2019
Ya no se trataba de si querían acabar o no con esa larga búsqueda; la búsqueda estaba acabando con ellos
Alan Le May, Centauros del Desierto.

Verdaderamente me agrada ver como la traducción española del título de esta fantástica novela y su filme homónimo describen incluso mejor que el original en inglés la esencia de la novela. Y es que los protagonistas, Amos y Mart pasan tanto tiempo vagando por las praderas a lomos de sus caballos, que acaban convirtiéndose en verdaderos centauros, condenados a ser híbridos entre hombre y caballo por largo tiempo, en una búsqueda por dos jóvenes raptadas por los comanches. Esta búsqueda acaba por convertirse en su propia vida, absorbiéndola hasta el punto de que no conocen otra distinta.

El autor describe magistralmente como la búsqueda (que llega a extenderse por años) de las chicas desarraiga poco a poco de una posible vida digna, familiar y estable a Mart. Como cada vez que vuelve a lo que antes quiso llamar hogar todo se vuelve para el más y más ajeno a su mundo, el cual ahora es tan solo una búsqueda incesante por encontrar lo último que puede quedarle de un hogar ya destruido y olvidado.Creo que se trata de una paradoja en la que la propia misión salvadora pretende restablecer y devolver el sentido y sentimiento de hogar para el joven Mart, mientras que el modo de vida que dicha misión le obliga a llevar le separa cada vez más y mas de lo que puede ser un hogar para en el futuro. Todo ello para tratar la dicotomía entre mirar al pasado y recordarlo, o dejarlo atrás y decidirse por el futuro.

La construcción y evolución de los personajes es fantástica, tanto de Amos como de Mart, la evolución de Mart forzada por la larga búsqueda le hace converger y asimilarse a Amos, paradigma del hombre desarraigado, insatisfecho, furibundo, vengativo... pero a la vez constante y valiente.

Todas las aristas de la historia se tratan de una forma mucho mas dura y cruda que en la película de Ford, aunque ambas son complementarias.

Profile Image for Richard.
210 reviews41 followers
November 12, 2021
I was glad to find this new reprint of the 1954 Alan LeMay classic. LeMay has made a reputation as a writer of stories set in Texas. He has a score of screenplays, novels and short stories to his credit. This novel was the basis of a 1956 film directed by John Ford and starring John Wayne. It is considered to be a great classic western movie; it, and several other Ford-Wayne westerns, including the 1939 "Stagecoach" are quoted by modern directors, including Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese as significant influences on their careers. Another LeMay novel, "The Unforgiven" was adapted into a movie in 1960.

The setting for "The Searchers" is the post-Civil War Texas. The main characters are drawn from the intrepid homesteaders who lived literally at the edge of civilization. One family is the Edwards' who have two daughters and two sons; living with them are also Henry Edwards' brother, and Martha's brother-in-law, Amos, and a young man (probably about age 18 at the start of the story) Martin Pauley. Pauley's family had been wiped out in an Indian raid when Martin was a child and he was the only survivor. He had been placed in a spot away from the home when the family felt threatened; apparently families in great danger took this risky precaution in the hope that a young child placed in a secluded spot may escape being captured by Indians if the rest of the family were killed. Pauley, although not related to the Edwards', nevertheless considers them to be family, including "Uncle Amos," because he was raised by them.

The Edwards' chief friends in the area are the Mathison family. Henry and Amos Edwards, and Aaron Mathison have partnered in raising and driving cattle to market. The beginning of the story is grounded on the loss of prized cattle of Aaron's when a Comanche raiding party apparently traveling through the area hit Mathison's herd. Amos and Martin ride off from the Edwards farm to join the Mathison possee engaged in tracking down the Comanches to retrieve the stolen cattle. The trackers, after traveling a distance from their homes, discover that the cattle theft was only a diversion to draw defenders from a homestead the Indians were going to attack. The pursuers ride at full speed to their respective farms; Amos and Martin then discover, too late, that the Edwards farm was the one which was attacked. The Edwards and two teenage sons are found dead and scalped; the two daughters, teenage Lucy and eleven-year-old Debbie are missing.

Thus begins the odyssey which gives the book its title. In condensed form, Amos and Martin begin a quest to find the two girls. Lucy's gruesome fate becomes known rather early but the search for Debbie and the band which hit the Edwards family would take the searchers on a long journey, lasting years. Amos and Martin would travel all over Texas and parts of neighboring states/territories, risking their own lives by visiting Comanche villages to ask questions about the Indian leader they learn is named Scar. They learn so much about the ways of the Indians that they become expert interpreters and trackers; LeMay uses their knowledge of Indian lore to inform the reader of Comanche lifestyles. This ongoing tutorial described in fluid prose, combined with the growing development of the principal characters, is what makes this book a rewarding read.

The story of the searchers unfolds against a backdrop of what LeMay correctly describes as the "most dreadful year in history"(p. 150) for the Texas ranchers. All over the Texas Plains, the settlers' footholds are loosening as frontier homes are burned out while their owners are killed and their children are taken captive by Comanches. (Reviewers note: in some cases, women and/or children would be abducted in raids and gradually assimulated into Comanche society; others would be taken for their value as hostages to be ransomed). Only a desparate stubbornness allowed the surviving families to hold on. LeMay seems to be attributing this state of affairs to the nineteenth-early twentieth century views of Indians as being murderous by nature and dishonestly cunning in their negotiations with the government which was trying to keep peace in the West. Thus, we have the theme running through the book of outrage over the Comanche inclination to remain on the warpath, killing and raiding when they earlier signed a peace treaty binding them to live peacefully on the reservation. A short digression from the book is in order.

Modern scholarship is shedding more light on what was going on with the Indians in Texas at this time. Pekka Hamalainen, in his excellent "The Comanche Empire", Yale University Press, 2008, shows how the hostilities on the frontier in the late 1860's were exacerbated, if not caused by, misguided government practices in dealing with the Indians. The United States Government decided to relocate Indian nations, which were living freely on the plains at the time, to reservations in order to clear rights-of-way for the transcontinental railroad. The removal of the Comanches, Kiowas, Naishans, Southern Cheyennes and Southern Arapahoes would serve that purpose and stop the Indian attacks against settlers in Texas. The result was a peace treaty filled by obscure meanings, mutual misinterpretations and shaky compromises, a document that Hamalainen describes as "a typical U.S.-Indian treaty."(p. 324). The Comanche-Kiowa treaty was intended to remove the Indians from 140,000 square miles in exchange for lavish gifts, annual payments of $25,000 for thirty years for relinquishing all of that land, and the opportunity to give up their ages-old lifestyle pursuing the buffalo across the plains to become yeoman farmers. The Indian delegates to the council signed their marks to the treaty, understanding they were allowing rights-of-ways and not relinquishing claims to their land.

A key provision of the treaty was that the Comanches would retain hunting privileges on the land they were supposed to give up "as long as the Buffalo remained there." To the Comanches, however, granting continued use of that land amounted to continued ownership by them. Therefore, the treaty could be interpreted as allowing the status quo. During the first winter of the treaty's existence, 1867-68, the various tribes gathered at the Indian agency at Fort Cobb in Indian Territory (Oklahoma) and accepted the government's annuities (food and clothing). When spring came, most of the bands showed that they never considered the reservation to be anything but a seasonal residence, by leaving Fort Cobb to resume their patterns of living on the plains, raiding livestock from Texas, Bosque Redondo and Indian Territory, and trading with the itinerant comancheros. The 1867 Medicine Lodge Creek treaty proved to be not worth the paper it was written on. Liberal policies adopted by the government by the new Grant administration would eventually be discarded following wide-spread blood-letting and the Army's new commander in the West, Philip Sheridan, would engage in a campaign to punish those non-reservation intertribal bands hostile to the government's restrictive policies. This is the historical context of the events related in "The Searchers." Now, back to the book:

The two main characters grow in complexity along different paths. Pawley grows into adulthood as he shares long treks, Indian attacks, blizzards, lonliness and other dangers with Amos. Amos, on the other hand, in addition to simply growing older, has surrendered to a sense of hatred and frustration that has been suppressed for a long time. Martin notices this change in Amos' remark about deciding not to stop searching until Scar and his band are destroyed; revenge against the Comanche enemy has taken precedence even to finding Debbie. Martin realizes that something is at work here that he has not previously discerned. Amos, immediately after the Edwards massacre, is changed significantly. Martin, a product of the Edwards household, realizes now why Amos never married and started his own ranch. He was secretly in love with Martha Edwards, and his loss at her death leaves him with nothing but blood hatred for the killers. If you look closely, you can detect a subtle, telling moment in the early scenes of the Ford film, when John Wayne and Dorothy Jordan, playing Martha Edwards, exchange quickly suppressed loving glances at each other.

Martin and Amos develop a deep respect for each other over time, but Martin's personal motive in maintaining the search is based on guilt, for not being a good brother figure for Debbie when he had the chance, and on a realization that he may have to do whatever is necessary to keep Amos from killing Debbie, who by now has grown assimilated into Indian life, when they find her.

Martin and Amos, or Ethan, as he is called in the film, find the village where Debbie is living and attack it in the company of Texas Rangers and Army Calvary. In John Ford's version of the story, Martin kills Scar while trying to rescue Debbie in a tepee; Debbie, spotting Ethan, runs from the Indian village with Ethan and Martin in pursuit. Ethan is the first to reach Debbie, and there is a tense moment when Martin, a few steps behind Ethan, must watch powerlessly how Ethan will handle the situation. A happy ending is in store, as Debbie and Ethan pause and look at each other. Ethan gathers Debbie in his arms and rescues her. The searchers take her back home, which in this case is the ranch of the Mathison's (transformed into Norwegians by the name of Jorgensen in the film adaptation).

The powerfully photographed Ford vistas of the dramatic West are matched by a scene which draws in the viewer by its beautiful simplicity. The film had begun with Ethan, recent Civil War veteran, coming home to the Edwards' ranch. In the opening sequence, an opening door breaks the blackness on the screen as sunlight enters the portal; the Edwards family goes out, through the doorway, to greet Ethan riding up to the house. This shot is mirrored at the end, when the black screen is again punctuated by a rectangular portal. Martin and Ethan have just delivered Debbie, still in buckskins, to the Jorgensen residence and she is escorted across the porch, into the home. The rest of the family files in through the portal, including Debbie Jorgensen, who has been flirting with Martin since the beginning and has been waiting for his safe return. The frame shows the solitary figure of Ethan (Wayne) standing, looking in. He pauses, then he turns around and walks away from the home while the door shuts, fading the screen to all black, end of story.

I always thought that was beautiful storytelling, although the meaning of the ending is open to interpretation. My take on it is that Ethan is not joining the family because he is being relegated to the past. His (Civil) war is over, and his side lost; his frontier family is wiped out, except for his niece, and he has been living on hate for too long. Sure, he accomplished his objective in rescuing his niece, but what now? All of the familiar old parts of his life have gone away and he is no longer relevant. I have a feeling he realizes this is one of those times in life where circumstances force one to find a new direction, but in the meantime the future belongs to the offspring of the original pioneers.

An interesting bit of trivia is that the teenaged Debbie in the film was played by Natalie Wood while the child Debbie at the beginning was played by her sister, nine-year-old Lana Wood. Oops, but wait, I've spoiled the suspense of the story by disclosing its ending. Not to fear, because LeMay's original version is different than the Hollywood adaptation. Amos (Ethan), for one thing, is not a returning veteran at the beginning of the story. The Civil War had been over for more than two years by this time; Amos was a veteran but he was already reestablished with his brothers' family. He is also much more wicked than the Hollywood Ethan and is not worthy of redemption. His continued defiling of the bodies of living and dead captured Indian enemies guarantees that literary justice will be served on him before the end of the story. Without giving away the ending, it can be noted that Martin and Amos come very close to finally admitting defeat during a final visit to the Mathison/Jorgensens. They had stopped in periodically during the years in the wilderness; this was where they could reconnect to the world of family living, however briefly. Aaron Mathison looked after the remnants of the Edwards' stock, which legally belongs to Debbie if she is ever found; Laurie Mathison and Martin would resume their awkward courtship during these short visits, leaving one with the impression that she would wait for him to take her in his arms as soon as he is free of his other obligation with Amos.

Guess what? Just when the searchers are ready to concede their efforts have been in vain, they get a tip concerning a sighting of Debbie in an Indian camp. They must go out one more time to try to conclude this business. Laurie has had enough of this waiting business, and she shares Amos' racial views. Laurie reminds Martin he is not looking for a little girl any more; Debbie is now sixteen, going on seventeen, with "savage brats of her own"; she's "the leavings of Comanche bucks" (p. 233). (Actually Debbie has been raised as the daughter of Scar, unaware of his participation in the killing of her original family, and is betrothed to marry in the tribe). Laurie's inner shrew has been let loose, and Martin's disillusionment is reinforced when he and Amos finally locate Debbie and get a chance to talk to her secretly before they attempt to rescue her. Martin gets a brief chance to talk with her by Indian sign language, since she has forgotten her native language, and learns that Debbie isn't waiting to be scooped up into any one's arms and carried back home. The Indian village is eventually raided but the book's ending is highly ambiguous. Let's just say that the story's threads are not so nicely tied together at the end.
Profile Image for Malum.
2,225 reviews127 followers
January 10, 2020
One of the more realistic Westerns that I have come across. There are no badass anti-heroes or invincible gunslingers here. The characters are flawed, emotional, and very vulnerable. LeMay also knew how to keep you on the edge of your seat.
Profile Image for Cherie.
1,286 reviews113 followers
September 6, 2020
I’ve always wanted to read this story. Now, I can finally say that I have. It was quite different than the John Ford movie but no less powerful. Very easy to read with some great lines and scenes. The great blizzard during, their first years of searching was amazing and vividly painted.
Profile Image for Fran.
153 reviews4 followers
June 2, 2023
Historia de la obsesión de dos inadaptados que, tras un horrible trauma, intentan dotar de sentido a sus vidas mediante una búsqueda incesante y enfermiza. Qué voy a contar yo que no se sepa ya de esta sencilla y magnífica historia.

Alan Le May escribe con una precisión y tensión desmesuradas. Nada te prepara para un inicio tan angustioso —ni siquiera la película—. La novela tarda media página en agarrarte del cuello y ya no deja de apretar. Pronto te ves inmerso, casi de manera kafkiana, en una carrera por praderas infinitas, conmocionado por ese comienzo demoledor y con la sensación constante de que la solución se encuentra a la vuelta de la página.

Quizá baja un poco de intensidad en la parte central, pero esto no empaña esta excelsa novela de aventuras, donde la venganza, la esperanza, un amor imposible y una recreación histórica intachable arropan una de las persecuciones más icónicas de nuestra cultura.

Sin desmerecer a la película —nunca se me ocurriría, pues me encanta—, nos encontramos ante una novela mucho más grave y descarnada que esta —diferente—, y ambas se enriquecen entre sí.
Profile Image for K.
901 reviews11 followers
November 24, 2020
Many have likely seen the movie, featuring John Wayne-- I'd venture to guess far more than have actually read this novel. Having seen more than my fair share of westerns featuring "the Duke," I thought I knew the story and might not enjoy reading the novel upon which it was based.

I was wrong! Come to discover that the screenwriters took some liberties (as they often do) and altered the story significantly. Neither is a bad way to go, mind you. If you enjoyed the film and never read the book, I'd predict you can die happily enough not having done so. For my part, anyway, I'm pleased that I finally elected to pick up the book. Interestingly, my biggest fear going in wasn't that I already knew the story but, rather, that I'd be unable to see the character of Ethan as anyone other than John Wayne. Well, much to my surprise and delight, that concern was unnecessary.

See, Ethan is one of the "changes" made for the film. The book centers on two men, Amos and Marty, Uncle and adoptive brother respectively, of Debbie, the ten year old taken captive in a Comanche raid that left her family slaughtered. I recall that the movie really focuses on Wayne's character (understandably so) and the dark, obsession-driven single-minded hatred that seems to consume him. Here, we have that, for sure, but I felt the story actually centered much more on Marty's perspective. He not only is obsessed with finding Debbie, regardless of how long (5 or 6 years of endless tracking across Texas, up into the plains and, basically, to hell and back) it takes, but also in confronting his own sense of emotional and familial isolation. In this regard, Le May actually delves deeper into the psyche of both he and Amos than I'd seen in the film, and I found this a subtle complexity that would be difficult to cram into a movie.

In any event, the ending is different than I'd remembered, so even if you have seen the movie, the book might surprise you. Le May conveyed any number of emotions in a handful of characters, including a woman very much in love with a man who just can't free himself of his burden long enough to see what he's sacrificing, or perhaps, despite knowing, sacrifices anyway. It's a rather grim, sad story and not at all the typical Western, but that's just what made the film so memorable. I'd say the book was just as memorable, and perhaps, even slightly better in some respects, freed from the limitations of a motion picture and, of what became an icon in and of himself, John Wayne.
A bonus is provided in the beginning as well-- a couple of brief chapters about the making of the film, as told by Harry Carey, Jr., one of the actors-- that shed a welcome insight into the production and personalities that were essential to forming the very memorable movie.

So, whaddya waitin' fer? Saddle up and git readin' pardner.
Profile Image for Steven Howes.
527 reviews
May 13, 2013
The Searchers is an excellent western novel that is loosely based on the story of Cynthia Ann Parker who was abducted by Comanches in Texas in 1836 when she was about 10 years of age. She remained a captive for over 20 years until she was "recaptured" by white society. While living with the Comanches, she was pursued by several family members but to no avail. She did give birth to several children during her captivity. Her oldest, Quannah, became a legendary Comanche chief and oversaw the transition of the tribe from "Lords of the Plains" to reservation living.

Lemay's novel is set later in time, after the Civil War, and follows the efforts of Amos Edwards and his adopted nephew, Martin Pauley, to find 10 year-old Debbie Edwards who was abducted by Comanche in a murder raid that left the remainder of her family dead. While outwardly simplistic, the plot and the relationships among characters are extremely complex. The author's descriptions of the beauty, vastness, and loneliness of the Plains are stunning.

This book was made into a movie of the same name released in 1956. It was directed by John Ford and John Wayne played the lead role of Ethan Edwards (name changed from Amos so as not be confused with Amos and Andy). The Searchers is considered by many to be one of the greatest westerns ever made.
Profile Image for JaumeMuntane.
380 reviews12 followers
March 26, 2018
Novela magistral. Historia inolvidable que conjuga a la perfección aventuras, con recreación histórica, profundidad en los personajes, realismo y poesía...
Si alguien no ha leído la novela por tener demasiado presente la inmortal película de John Ford, recomiendo que disfrute de la lectura de la novela de Alan Le May. Se complementan perfectamente. En la novela se encuentra una detallada y muy disfrutable recreación histórica de la zona de la frontera (la relación comancheros-blancos-indios, costumbres de los comanches y otras tribus, la vida en Nuevo México...), una mayor dureza en las descripciones, profundidad en los personajes además de encontrarnos con qué algunos personajes tienen destinos distintos a los de la película, además de tener un final distinto pero, como mínimo, igual de espléndido que el de la película de John Ford.
PD (1): Obviamente tras la lectura recomiendo el (re)visionado de la película de John Ford.
PD (2): Tras el (re)visionado de la película de John Ford recomiendo recuperar el programa de "Que grande es el cine" dedicado a dicha película. Se puede recuperar en la web de rtve.
Profile Image for Paul Ataua.
1,348 reviews127 followers
December 30, 2018
John Ford’s “The Searchers” has always been one of my favorite movies of all time, so it was with trepidation that I turned to the novel that spawned it. I needn’t have worried. They are close in many respects and do tell more or less the same story, and yet there are significant differences between them. I am not going to play the game of which is better , but I am going to say I enjoyed both of them immensely.
Profile Image for Laura.
6,872 reviews556 followers
November 4, 2014
From BBC Radio 4 - Classical Serial:
Texas, 1848. When Comanches attack the Edwards family's settlement on the Texas plains, they kidnap two girls - seventeen year-old Lucy and ten year-old Debbie. So Amos Edwards sets out on the dangerous mission to recover his two nieces, with the help of his nephew Mart and a rag-tag bunch of searchers. Their epic mission will last six years. The concluding episode is at the same time next week.

Alan Le May's 1954 novel is a timeless work of western fiction and a no-holds-barred portrait of the real American frontier. It explores the fear and the hatred that underpinned the lives of both the white settlers and the Native Americans. And what emerges is a violent account of a creeping genocide, as one culture inevitably triumphs over the other.

John Ford's 1956 film, based on the novel, starred John Wayne as Ethan Edwards (called Amos in the book and radio adaptation). Ford's film was named the Greatest Western Movie of all time by the American Film Institute in 2008.

Radio 4 investigates the story behind the novel with 'In Search of the Real Searchers' at 1.30pm on Sunday 26th October. And for more western drama, a new adaptation of Glendon Swarthout's 'The Shootist' is broadcast Saturday 25th October at 2.30pm.

Directed by James Robinson
A BBC Cymru/Wales Production.
Profile Image for John.
1,164 reviews24 followers
November 27, 2017
I enjoyed the beginning and the end but found the middle a bit repetitive and boring. Certainly more gritty and realistic than the movie.
Profile Image for Elessar.
226 reviews48 followers
July 16, 2022

Gran novela del Oeste. El conocimiento sobre la tribu comanche por parte del autor es impresionante, lo que dota a la novela de mucho realismo. La persistencia de los protagonistas, por otro lado, es admirable.

Bien es cierto que hay partes un poco repetitivas, dado que la búsqueda de la chica raptada por los indios se extiende por cinco años. El principio y el final son, a mí juicio, lo mejor del libro. No obstante, no es una novela demasiado larga, por lo que no se hace tediosa su lectura. Está muy bien escrita y es fácil de seguir. Un wéstern en estado puro.
Profile Image for Kathrin Passig.
Author 49 books394 followers
December 14, 2018
An sich nicht schlecht, aber ich halte diesen "unsere Frauen und Töchter"-Mist nicht mehr so gut aus wie früher. Wenn sie ihre Frauen aus Pappe wenigstens ganz rauslassen könnten aus solchen Büchern. Man kann doch irgendeinen anderen Grund finden, 350 Seiten lang herumzureiten und die Rothäute totzuschießen, pure Bosheit vielleicht, so wie bei Cormac McCarthy, aber nein, UNSERE FRAUEN UND TÖCHTER. Na gut, also dieses Buch hat meine Wertschätzung für pure unbegründete Bosheit als Autorenwerkzeug vermehrt, immerhin.
Profile Image for Simon Lewis.
36 reviews1 follower
May 25, 2015
As night falls in the Texas borderlands, a lone rancher prepares to defend his family against Comanches. Miles away, his brother leads a posse tracking cow thieves. He finds only carcasses. There are no thieves: the Indians have lured the men away so that the family can be killed. They race back, running their horses to death, and return to the aftermath of a slaughter. The only bodies missing are those of the two young girls.
All this happens within about a dozen pages, making the opening of The Searchers one of the most gripping starts to a novel I've ever read. It continues at that pace, through shootouts, ambushes, snowstorms and cross-desert pursuits. Just as gripping is the depth of detail about the lives of ranchers, rangers, cavalrymen, native Americans and 'Comancheros' (the Mexican frontiersmen who traded with the Comanches). You get a whole new vocabulary, a whole new mental picture of how bleak and tough frontier life really was.
In the 1956 John Ford film, that bleakness was concentrated in the John Wayne character: the vengeful brother who doesn't want to rescue his niece but to put her down because she's 'tainted' by her Comanche kidnappers. In the book he's not as racist: he'll just murder anything that stands between him and his niece. His sidekick worries that his rage will get them all killed, including the girl. As the infant sole survivor of a Comanche raid, the sidekick has demons of his own. The search wears on for six long years (the third quarter of the book drags a bit) and we see how these dark motivations strip men of the capacity for joy. Only in the very last paragraph are we given a tiny ray of hope -- and that in the wake of yet another massacre.
Is it draining? Not like the ashen Cormac McCarthy novels it clearly inspired. There's humour, and pace (except in that third quarter), and historic detail and fantastic gunfights. You can see why it was turned into a movie as soon as it came out. I've never seen that film -- often called the best Western ever. I'm going to now. But I've got a hunch the book is better.
Profile Image for Bill.
1,619 reviews75 followers
August 29, 2020
The Searchers by Alan Le May was turned into a movie in 1956 by John Ford, starring John Wayne and Vera Miles. It's a gritty, powerful Western, not a genre I normally read.

The story is set in the Texas frontier where settlers struggle to survive, fearing attacks by Indian warriors. Amos Edwards and Martin Pauley leave Amos' brother's homestead to search for cattle rustlers with other homesteaders. On their return they discover the farm has been attacked by Commanche warriors. All of the people have been killed except two daughters. They have been taken by the Commanche. This is the basis of the story. Amos and Martin will spend the next five years searching for the two.

It's a fascinating, gritty journey as the two scour the unsettle West trying to find the two. It's a barren, hard area, with few people except Indian tribes and the odd fort. It's a tough (to put it mildly) difficult journey as they weather all conditions as they try to find clues to which Indian tribe took them and try to find out where they might have settled. Over time, they periodically return to the old homestead, where they stay with the Mathisons, where resides their daughter Laurie who has feelings for Marty.

But this journey is in their minds. They need to find the Edward girl(s). It's a journey of necessity, their need is under their skin, a deep itch that festers until the end. It's a dark journey, quite powerful. I'm hesitant to watch the movie.... Worth trying (4 stars)
Profile Image for Doug.
Author 2 books9 followers
June 19, 2016
This classic Western was the source of the John Ford-John Wayne movie of the same title. The film differs in some critical ways from the book. The novel has a great, exciting beginning, with settlers lured away from their homes, leaving them unprotected from Comanche attack. Two sisters are taken by unknown Indians -- and then the long (years long) search ensues. The book has a little trouble keeping up its intensity, simply because the two searchers travel, and travel some more, and continually hit dead ends. To some extent, no one is saved from the dismal effects of the clash between Indians and encroaching Americans.
Profile Image for Mark.
1,373 reviews104 followers
October 7, 2018
I fell in love with the film version of The Searchers, the very first time I saw it, but I never did read the original novel. Well, I have corrected that oversight and I was not disappointed. This is not a western pulp read. It is dark and edgy, as it follows Amos Edwards, (Ethan in the film) and Martin Pauley as they doggedly search the Texas territory. for a little girl, kidnapped by the Comanches. This was based on an actual event. A good, solid read.
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