Though I don’t typically read mountain man books, this was a birthday gift that looked pretty interesting. Also, I know very little about any but the most famous mountain men and I am always interested in learning new things. Sadly, Crow Killer ended up being a little too folksy and not academic enough for me. Still, to those who enjoy wild west tales and don’t mind gruesome books and a lot of old school racism, this just might be the book for you!
According to very hazy legend Liver-Eating Johnson was actually named John. Though where he came from is/was up for debate, it was generally agreed that he came to the west as a young man in his late teens or early twenties. He joined a trapping team and learned the ropes in his first few seasons. He took an Indian wife and returned to find that she and her unborn child had been murdered by the Crow Indians. Of course, Johnson decides to take revenge on the entire Crow nation and ends up eating the livers of those he kills. Aside from the entire disgust factor of revenge cannibalism, the entire story can’t be verified by what we’d consider factual sources and is pretty dubious. Throughout the course of his life, Johnson eats up a lot of livers, becomes the target of a Crow hit squad, and traps up a storm. I don’t want to spoil it, but eventually Johnson makes peace with the crow to go after some other groups.
Thorp and Bunker don’t pretend that they are legitimate historians, but merely people passing along what they heard about Johnson from this old mountain man who heard it from that old mountain man. It is folksy and not terribly well written. I also get a little uncomfortable when reading about gruesome rapes, murders, and racist attitudes. They aren’t my favorite topics, and though Thorp and Bunker don’t really sensationalize the scenes, it is still gross.