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Elkhorn Tavern
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Group Reads: Post-1990 > Final Impressions: Elkhorn Tavern: January 2018

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message 1: by Tom, "Big Daddy" (new) - added it

Tom Mathews | 2639 comments Mod
Comments on this board are made with the assumption that readers have finished the book and may include spoilers.


Janice (JG) | 126 comments I don't think I realized how central to the story this battle, and its particulars, was. I thought it would be more about how women coped as heads of households/farms when the men were off fighting the war. But then I realized, these women in Missouri probably didn't expect this battle in their backyards either. It made it easier to relate.

My only complaint about the story was the early foreshadowing of Spider's fixation and hostility about Calpurnia. I didn't like the tension it created throughout the story, probably because I am also fed up with movies whose only box office attraction is that a pretty young girl is threatened.

I will admit, however, that the threat to Calpurnia could have been very real. Everything else about the story felt realistic ... except perhaps for the solution to Epps, which was wonderfully coincidental. And good that it did end that way, because I would have been truly disappointed if violence against Calpurnia became one of the realities.

The battle scene at Elkhorn Tavern was visceral and horrifying, but I did enjoy the details of the troops and their leaders as they took positions and/or camped in the countryside. I liked this description:
Soon, the camps were trash dumps of discarded pots and pans, dishes and crocks, woven straw sleeping mats too cumbersome to carry, bits and pieces of furniture stolen at various times from surrounding farmyards. And playing cards, worn thin and spongy from use, scattered over the ground like the fallen foliage of some strange square-leafed plant. And among these, the bottles and jugs, quickly emptied of what little was left in them



message 3: by Diane, "Miss Scarlett" (new) - rated it 5 stars

Diane Barnes | 4113 comments Mod
I'm glad you liked this, Janice, I felt like it was meticulously researched. I was also worried about Calpurnia all through the novel but let's face it, historically, young attractive women have always been at risk, and needed protection.
Here is a review by Diane: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...


John | 533 comments Diane, even though we have never met, I kept finding that you became the personification of Ora to me. There is a resilience, a strength, in your character that I am reminded of when I remember how you speak of family, responsibility, and presence of place -the dirt we walk upon. Not as an obligation, but rather, "Here I am and how I am."

The honour is mine.

jt


message 5: by Diane, "Miss Scarlett" (new) - rated it 5 stars

Diane Barnes | 4113 comments Mod
Oh my goodness, John, what a wonderful thing to say. Not sure I deserve it, because every time I read about fictional characters, men or women, who have such strong character, and face adversity and hard work with such courage, my first thought is: "I don't think I could have done that".


John | 533 comments Lol. Ain't that the truth.


Candi (candih) | 208 comments I finished this wonderful novel a little over a week ago and absolutely loved it. I found it fast-paced and very riveting. I was struck by the fact that the author, in a relatively short novel, drew each character so vividly - even the minor characters. The battle scenes seemed very realistic to me. The bits of gore in battle as well as back on the farm to me were relevant to the story and added to the feeling of suspense - I couldn't imagine how this family could live through such things. Yet live they did and with such courage, as Diane so well states. Ora is a favorite character of mine, and I developed a soft spot for Tulip as well. The ending scene in the woods was well done and I enjoyed the little twist in the story at this point. I am very happy to have discovered this author and definitely plan to read more of his work, likely with The Barefoot Brigade as next on my list, hopefully before too long.

Here is my review: Review


Camie | 102 comments I enjoyed this book more than expected, though it took some time (about the first third) for me to get into it. Our much missed club friend Kirk Smith had a " strong women" shelf. This book would have surely been there.


message 9: by Diane, "Miss Scarlett" (new) - rated it 5 stars

Diane Barnes | 4113 comments Mod
Agree, Camie. I also got the feeling that Calpurnia would be just as strong as Ora in her new life.


message 10: by Sue (last edited Jan 31, 2018 11:10PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sue | 663 comments I came in under the wire on this one. Just finished and wrote a review (others have already written many excellent ones before me). I agree with all who have loved this. It reminds me of The Black Flower: A Novel of the Civil War by Howard Bahr, with it's very human perspective. Bahr's book, however, is written more from the soldiers' point of view.
My review is here:
https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...


message 11: by Sue (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sue | 663 comments Diane wrote: "Agree, Camie. I also got the feeling that Calpurnia would be just as strong as Ora in her new life."

I do agree, Diane, and I wonder it that marriage is covered in other of Jones' books.


message 12: by Diane, "Miss Scarlett" (new) - rated it 5 stars

Diane Barnes | 4113 comments Mod
I'll have to check with Howard on that, since he has read most, if not all, of Jones's books. I have "Roman" waiting to be read, but I believe that is about Roman's life in the West after he leaves home. I read "Barefoot Brigade" this month, about Martin's experiences in the army. He was upset for days after receiving the letter informing him of Calpurnia's marriage to a Yankee officer. It seemed like a betrayal of everything he was fighting for. That book is every bit as good, should you get a chance to read it.


Howard | 407 comments Diane and Camie,

The earlier lives of Ora and Martin are not recounted in the other Jones' novels . They either follow Roman during the various stages of his life or that of Calpurnia's son.

You are correct, Diane, I have read all of Jones' books after discovering "Barefoot Brigade" many, many moons ago. In fact, I have read most of them more than once. I have recommended him to everyone that I know, and now with "Elkhorn Tavern" being a selection on the Trail he is finally gaining a wider readership.


message 14: by Diane, "Miss Scarlett" (new) - rated it 5 stars

Diane Barnes | 4113 comments Mod
Howard, which book would come after Roman?


message 15: by Howard (last edited Feb 01, 2018 02:57PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Howard | 407 comments Diane wrote: "Howard, which book would come after Roman?"

"Come Winter" would come next. "Winding Stair", which overlaps the same time period, introduces the son of Calpurnia and Allen Eben Pay. It would probably be best read after "Come Winter."


message 16: by Diane, "Miss Scarlett" (new) - rated it 5 stars

Diane Barnes | 4113 comments Mod
Thanks, Howard. I'm glad to have more of them waiting for me. He has become an author I look for in used book sales now.


Connie G (connie_g) | 450 comments I want to thank Howard for introducing me to this wonderful author. I have such vivid pictures of the characters in my mind that I don't want to let them go, so I'm glad there are more books in the series. Here is my review:
https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...


message 18: by Sue (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sue | 663 comments I'm going to look for more of Jones' books too. I do still need to read the two other books in Bahr's trilogy. So many good books. Thanks Howard for setting this ball rolling.


Julie  Durnell | 19 comments I was pleasantly surprised by this book, and to know there are more books with Roman and Calpurnia's son-thanks to all!


Jeanette (jj5again) | 7 comments Me too, Julie. Although I read Elkhorn Tavern some time ago and loved it- I need to read those others too, possibly of sequel. I may have forgotten to put them on the TBR list, but will now.


message 21: by Sue (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sue | 663 comments I just ordered Barefoot Brigade and Roman so I have more fun ahead. Thanks again to Howard for setting this ball rolling and everyone else for keeping it going.


Howard | 407 comments Sue wrote: "I just ordered Barefoot Brigade and Roman so I have more fun ahead. Thanks again to Howard for setting this ball rolling and everyone else for keeping it going."

Sue, my thanks go to the "Trail" and whoever nominated "Elkhorn" (I can't remember who, but I wasn't present or accounted for at the time). Because of the "Trail" I no longer feel like a one-man band when it comes to extolling the virtues of Douglas C. Jones.


message 23: by Sue (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sue | 663 comments :-) Howard, you are definitely not alone in your love of Jones' works. The Trail can now take on the burden of disseminating the news of his books and you can retire with the title of Chief of Exploration and Discovery, Jones division.


Howard | 407 comments Sue wrote: ":-) Howard, you are definitely not alone in your love of Jones' works. The Trail can now take on the burden of disseminating the news of his books and you can retire with the title of Chief of Expl..."

I accept.


Connie G (connie_g) | 450 comments I just looked back to the nominations and it was Diane that nominated Elkhorn Tavern. Many of us had added the book to our TBRs when we read Howard's reviews of the Jones' books. So a big "thank you" to Diane for the nomination.


message 26: by Sue (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sue | 663 comments Indeed--a thank you to Diane from me too.


message 27: by Diane, "Miss Scarlett" (new) - rated it 5 stars

Diane Barnes | 4113 comments Mod
I was reading the book when Lawyer called for nominations, and was so carried away by it that I had to put it in play. But for Howard, I would never have heard of Douglas C. Jones, so all credit goes to him.


Howard | 407 comments Diane wrote: "I was reading the book when Lawyer called for nominations, and was so carried away by it that I had to put it in play. But for Howard, I would never have heard of Douglas C. Jones, so all credit go..."

I was thinking that you were responsible for the nomination, Diane, but I wasn't positive.

Thank you for spreading the word on Jones.


Candi (candih) | 208 comments Thank you to both Howard and Diane for introducing me to Jones. I hope the word is getting out and about now, because after reading this one, I can easily say that his books deserve a much wider readership :)


message 30: by Howard (last edited Feb 04, 2018 07:06PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Howard | 407 comments This is a biographical sketch of Douglas C. Jones that I wrote for another site. He was an extremely interesting and versatile individual with a fascinating background. I know it is a bit long but I hope it helps explain Jones' varied talents.


I find it difficult to understand why some western novelists are so fortunate to have many of their books and stories make their way to movie and TV screens, while other writers, often just as gifted, sometimes even more so, rarely, if ever, see their work adapted to film.

There is no doubt that timing is a factor. Writers such as Zane Grey, Ernest Haycox, and Luke Short, for example, were turning out novels at a time when western movies were extremely popular and were annually produced by the hundreds. In the case of Grey all of his western novels were filmed, most of them more than once, though in some cases only the title of the story survived the screenplay.

On the other hand, the stories of a few other writers -- Louis L'Amour and Larry McMurty, for example -- have made their way to the screen even at a time that fewer and fewer westerns were being filmed. True, most of the L'Amour stories were filmed as made-for-TV movies, but they were filmed.

Then there is the late Elmer Kelton, who was a prolific writer of popular western novels, some of which were acclaimed by critics and won prestigious awards. And yet only one of them, The Good Old Boys, was ever filmed, and that as a TV movie with Tommy Lee Jones as producer, director, and star.

And that brings us to Douglas C. Jones. First of all, it would be a misnomer to call him a "western novelist." While it is true that most of his novels were set in the west, they were far from the formulaic stories produced by the likes of L'Amour, Haycox, Short, and company, or even Kelton. While Kelton did write a few novels that approached literary status, most of them would have to be classified as formulaic, which is not to say that they weren't well-written and enjoyable. Jones' novels, on the other hand, were anything but formulaic. They weren't really "western novels" as we think of the term, but were in reality historical novels that happened to be set in the West.

But like Kelton, only one of Jones' stories has been adapted to film and is likewise a TV movie. Jones' very first novel, The Court-Martial of George Armstrong Custer, produced as a Hallmark TV movie in 1977, is thus far the first and last Jones story to be filmed.

He was born in 1924 in the small northwestern Arkansas town of Winslow. After graduating from high school in nearby Fayetteville in 1942, he was drafted into the army and served in the Pacific Theater.

After his discharge, he attended the University of Arkansas, graduating with a degree in journalism in 1949. He then returned to the army where he served another twenty years. But during that time he attended the University of Wisconsin where he was awarded a master's degree in mass communications.

While still in the military, his first book, The Treaty of Medicine Lodge, was published in 1966. His only nonfiction book, it was a re-working of his master's thesis.

Retiring as a Lt. Colonel in 1968, he taught journalism for six years at Wisconsin, eventually devoting full-time to his writing. Fifty-two years old when his first novel was published, he would write sixteen more, with the last being published posthumously. His historical novels range all the way from the American Revolution to the Great Depression. There is also an eighteenth novel, set in World War II, that has as yet not been published. It would seem a natural fit for a career soldier who served in that conflict, but with the passing of almost two decades since his death, it doesn't seem likely that it will ever see the light of the day.

Did I mention that he was also a painter and illustrator who provided drawings for the first editions of his books? Well, he was -- and he did.


Connie G (connie_g) | 450 comments Interesting information, Howard. Now I know why he writes about war with so much realism.


message 32: by Howard (last edited Feb 04, 2018 06:38PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Howard | 407 comments Connie wrote: "Interesting information, Howard. Now I know why he writes about war with so much realism."

Exactly!


message 33: by Diane, "Miss Scarlett" (new) - rated it 5 stars

Diane Barnes | 4113 comments Mod
Thanks for that information. What a multi-talented man he was. 52 is relatively late to begin a career as a novelist, but lucky for us all he did. We're you ever able to meet him, or did you know him only through his books? How was his book on Custer? I saw an American Experience show on PBS about him, and never knew what a thoroughly horrible person he was.


Howard | 407 comments Diane wrote: "Thanks for that information. What a multi-talented man he was. 52 is relatively late to begin a career as a novelist, but lucky for us all he did. We're you ever able to meet him, or did you know h..."

His book on Custer was a fictional "what if" exercise. What if Custer had survived the Little Bighorn battle? If so, wouldn't he have been brought up on charges? And would he have been convicted or acquitted?

In effect, Jones places Custer on a couch and psychoanalyzes him. He draws upon his journalism and mass communications background and his abiding interest in history to support his conclusion.

I am not going to spoil the ending for anyone who hasn't read the book, but I will say that even as work of fiction, as with all his novels, it does not stray far from the historical record -- even in one as fictional as this one.


message 35: by Sue (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sue | 663 comments Thanks for all of this further information, Howard. Jones appears to have been a true Renaissance man.


Howard | 407 comments Sue wrote: "Thanks for all of this further information, Howard. Jones appears to have been a true Renaissance man."

That's a perfect description, Sue, but not one that is normally associated with a career soldier.


message 37: by Sue (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sue | 663 comments I guess I was thinking of his time in the military as being one facet of his knowledge. It certainly does not seem to have limited his views of the world and people as we see them in his writing.


Howard | 407 comments Sue wrote: "I guess I was thinking of his time in the military as being one facet of his knowledge. It certainly does not seem to have limited his views of the world and people as we see them in his writing."

I agree.


Julie  Durnell | 19 comments Fascinating information, Howard, thank you!


Howard | 407 comments Julie wrote: "Fascinating information, Howard, thank you!"

You are welcome, Julie. Thank you for reading and commenting.


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