Thursday, May 26, 2011

People of the Longhouse

Many of W. Michael Gear and Kathleen O'Neal Gear's book titles begin with "People of the....." The Gear's are prolific writers. All their books that I have read are the ones about Native Americans before our country was settled by foreigners. Reading their books is how I have learned of such fascinating places as Cahokia in Illinois (which I was able to visit a few years ago) and Moundville in Alabama (which is still on my 'to visit' list) as well as many, many sites in the Southwest.
People of the Longhouse is the first of four books that will tell the epic tale of Dekanawida, the Peacemaker. He established the Great Law of Peace and founded the League of the Iroquois - a confederacy of five tribes in the northeast area of our country.
This book and the next, The Dawn Country, is a duology focusing on the early lives of Dekanawida and Hiyawento. The next duology, The Broken Land and The Black Sun, will chronicle their later lives along with telling the story of Jigonsaseh, the head clan mother known as "The Mother of Nations". Their struggle for peace in fifteenth-century North America formed the basis of many ideals we cherish as free people today.

Reading this latest Gear book has created some confusion in my own mind: Somewhere in my fairly recent past, I was talking with a man who is or was associated with Wyoming archeology. When I mentioned that I enjoy reading the Gear books - how well they are written based on anthropology and archaeological findings (read the Gears' biographies at gear-gear.com) - the person I was talking with was rather demeaning of the Gears (who live in Wyoming) and their books.
What I'm unable to remember is where I talked to this man. It was a social setting and I don't do that many social settings anymore. Was it at my brother's wedding two years ago? (Possibly since my brother is in the world of academics.) Was it at my nephew's going away party? (Possibly as he is friends with a wide variety of people.) OR, is it just something I dreamed?
Regardless, I bet people reading the Gear books have learned more about early Native American peoples than through any other channels. For certain, I will keep learning thanks to their books.

The Shifting Tide and Dark Assassin are the fourteenth and fifteenth novels in Anne Perry's William Monk series. The fact that I have not grown weary of this character is a testament to how well these books are written and how interestingly fresh each one is. (For me, it also helps that they are set in Victorian London - an era and area I'm interested in.)
In The Shifting Tide, Monk's dire need of funds compels him to accept an assignment to find and return ivory stolen from a ship moored on the Thames. Monk knows London streets, but the world of the river and its docks is foreign territory for him.

Monk continues his association with the Thames in Dark Assassin as the new Superintendent of the Thames River Police. (I must say, I was pretty certain I was going to see Monk back in uniform.) As he tries to learn his new job, he realizes he must also earn the respect of his men - at least one of which is intent upon discrediting him.

Monk has been helped in both these books by a young mudlark* named Scuff. I'm going on record as betting that Scuff will be adopted by Monk and Hester in some future book.

(There are only three books left for me to read in the Monk series, so I'm going to get one of Perry's WWI series and try it when I go to the library today.)

*A mudlark is someone who scavenges in river mud for items of value, especially in London in the late 18th and 19th centuries. (Forerunners of today's metal-detecting beachcombers perhaps?) There was a 1950 movie, The Mudlark, starring Irene Dunne and Alec Guinness which I would watch if it is ever on the classic movie network.

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