Have you read a good Western lately? The traditional Western, a genre that saw its height from the 1940s to the 1960s, seemed to go out of disfavor for various reasons. Regionalism, a trademark of many Westerns, somehow took on a bad name. Modern society also seemed to forget the Western, deeming it colloquial. While Louis L’Amour seemed to weather the storm, even well past his passing, many other Western authors seem to have struggled to place their books on bestseller lists.
That’s why it was refreshing to read Alan Van farmer’s Freedom Flight, the story of Rye Tyler, who was sent away as a young boy, and due to his heroic exploits, became a spy in the Confederate army and was later confined to a Union prison in Murfreesboro, Tenn., condemned to hang. It was there that two of his companions were murdered by a man posing as a Union sergeant. Freed by troops led by Nathan Bedford Forrest, Tyler deserted and went to Minnesota to take revenge for the deaths of his companions, only to find himself in the midst of the Great Sioux Uprising as he came to Fort Ridgeley.
Tyler rescued three children, at first thought orphaned but later proven to have been abandoned by their parents. Tyler continues to save others as he makes his way west.
Tyler still holds his childhood sweetheart, Libbie Davis, close to his heart as he searches for her. However, when Libbie’s sister, Blanche, enters his life, Rye’s life becomes more confused than ever as he’s pursued by not just Confederate and Union soldiers but also Sioux and Shoshone warriors. Even worse, members of Libbie and Blanch’s and even his own family want him dead. Rye finds unusual allies – most notably the feared and respected Cheyenne dog soldiers who hold him in honor for his bravery.
Van Ormer does a great job of creating a sense of place and characters whose motivations are real and compelling. Freedom Flight is the first in Van Ormer’s Road Through Hell series.
Van Ormer, editor of the Kossuth County Advance in Algona, Iowa, and a former Marine, is originally from Sioux Falls, S.D. Interestingly, I recognized his name and after touching bases with him realized that I had worked with him at the Lawrence County Centennial in the Black Hills about 30 years ago.
Freedom Flight Alan Van Ormer ISBN 9781952661082 $8.99