This book solidifies it for me. I need to read more Hampton Sides. I love the way he integrates side stories without seeming to go off on tangents. I enjoy his use of first person sources. I enjoy his narrative voice. I could continue singing his praises, but lets just get to the review shall we?
Sides tackles a large chunk of history covering a wide geographical area, which can be tricky. For some reason (the reason is my little brother… he ended up giving me all these mountain man biographies for my birthday) I have been reading a lot of books about “the west” lately. Some books try to cover everything, some are too narrow in their scope. Sides hits it in the sweet spot by focusing on one man, Kit Carson, one state (for the most part) New Mexico, and one group of Native Americans, the Navajo. By focusing on the interactions and history of those areas, Sides gives us a snapshot of one western struggle. At the very beginning we are introduced to Kit Carson and shown how we will be following his career that has been immortalized in print, film, and various other visual arts. Kit falls in and out of various careers, that of a guide on the Santa Fe Trail, Army Scout, Indian fighter, and Reservation Superintendent. As a reader, I felt that the landscape provided another character to the story. The struggle to ‘tame’ the New Mexico Territory and the conflicts among the personalities, motivations, and actions of the key players are endlessly fascinating.
A great non fiction should do two things 1) educate 2) entertain. Blood and Thunder managed to do both as well as inspire me to want a visit to New Mexico, no small task as it has not been my idea of a tourist destination. Sides didn’t moralize, but presented a snapshot of what the world once was. I recommend this book to American History buffs, biography fans, and anyone who likes a good read.