95°F
weather icon Clear

Double team delivers triple threat with debut novel, ‘Deep Creek’

It’s three, three, three books in one! Or maybe even more.

Sometimes books — and authors — try to do too much at once.

Happily, that’s not the case with “Deep Creek,” the debut of novelist Dana Hand (alias historians William Howarth and Anne Matthews), who deliver a fascinating account that’s equally effective as mystery, Western history and character study.

“Deep Creek” takes us to 1887 Idaho (still a territory), in and around the town of Lewiston, where police judge Joe Vincent and his 10-year-old daughter, out fishing one day, make a grisly discovery: a mutilated body floating in the Snake River.

All too soon, more mutilated bodies turn up, indicating there’s been a hideous massacre of more than 30 Chinese gold miners, who’ve been working the remote title location.

The San Francisco-based Chinese labor exchange they toiled for, the Sam Yup Company, sends a Yale-educated representative, Lee Loi, to Lewiston; he hires Vincent to find the culprits. But they’ll need a tracker — and who shows up to take the job but Grace Sundown, a half-French, half-Nez Perce teacher and mountain guide. She and Joe have a lot of unfinished business — which they must inevitably confront as they make their way to, and beyond, Deep Creek.

The novel has its share of traditional mystery elements and the plot unfolds in fairly straightforward fashion (except in the beginning, when the narrative jumps back and forth between the discovery of the Chinese miners’ bodies and their doomed mining expedition).

Yet the mystery isn’t even the book’s most interesting aspect.

For history buffs, “Deep Creek’s” exploration of deeply rooted racism in the Wild, but evolving, West will provide an eye-opening look at the ways in which both American Indians and Chinese were treated — and mistreated.

And for those who love stories about well-developed characters, “Deep Creek” provides a host of them. Joe himself is a refreshingly offbeat Western hero: stalwart and resourceful, yes, but also thoughtful and willing to ask questions first and shoot later. (Not always the way with the good guys riding the range.)

Lee Loi also proves a bundle of compelling contradictions, but for me the book’s “Most Memorable Character” award goes to Grace Sundown. Not only is she related to real-life Nez Perce horseman Jackson Sundown

(who makes a cameo appearance; see Ken Kesey’s wonderful “Last Round-up” for his adventures at the 1911 Pendleton Round-Up with Buffalo Bill and a host of other Western legends), she’s a virtual embodiment of the multiple influences that make up the West — and, by extension, all of the United States. To say nothing of her smarts, daring, sly sense of humor, cussed independence and indomitable sense of self.

She’s definitely one to ride the river with — even a river as treacherous and haunting as the Snake River that flows, like a bloodline, through “Deep Creek.”

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
THE LATEST
Week in Pictures: April 28-May4

Take a look at some eye-catching pictures from Las Vegas Review-Journal photographers in the past week, including Las Vegas Science & Technology Festival, Pirate Fest, weather and Canelo vs. Jacobs. Children play inside a hot air balloon provided by Las Vegas Balloon Rides during the Las Vegas Science & Technology Festival on Saturday, May 4, […]

Week in Pictures: April 21-April 27

Take a look at some eye-catching pictures from Las Vegas Review-Journal photographers in the past week, including Golden Knights playoffs, Raiders draft and WBA lightweight championship bout. The Meadows School third baseman Sam Kaplan looks in a high ground ball during fielding practice, he will play at Cornell University next year on Wednesday, April 24, […]

Week in Pictures: April 14-April 20

Take a look at some eye-catching pictures from Las Vegas Review-Journal photographers in the past week, including Golden Knights playoffs and Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekend. The Pink Moon, the nickname for April’s full moon, is not pink at all but yellow and sets in the west behind the Raiders Stadium early on Friday, April […]

Week in Pictures: March 17-March 23

Take a look at some eye-catching pictures from Las Vegas Review-Journal photographers in the past week, including Vegas Golden Knights, Cesar Chavez Day festival, prep baseball and El Cortez shooting. Brooklyn Ruiz, 10, center, of Redlands, Calif., jumps out of the pool while playing with her cousin, Analyce Lopez, 11, of Redlands, Calif., left, and […]

Week in Pictures: March 10-March 16

Take a look at some eye-catching pictures from Las Vegas Review-Journal photographers in the past week, including the West Coast Conference tournament, the Mountain West tournament and the Pac-12 tournament. The Stanford Cardinals celebrate after defeating the Oregon Ducks during a NCAA college basketball game in the final of the Pac-12 women’s tournament at the […]

Week in Pictures: Jan. 14-20

Take a look at some striking pictures from Review-Journal photographers in the past week, including weather features, a boxing match and the super blood wolf moon. Ronald Holmes plays the alto saxophone on The Strip as dark clouds move in on Monday, Jan. 14, 2019, in Las Vegas. Clouds, rain and snow are expected in […]

7 ways autocomplete can get smarter

Autocomplete is one of the best (or depending on how hastily you push ‘send’ – worst) things in the world. We rely on it so much that Google plans to let us autocomplete whole emails. Here are seven ways predictive input can improve. 1. Recognizing names from previous emails Jakub Kokoszka has a tough name to […]

Movie posters might soon be based on your clicks

You may have thought you left Blockbuster behind, but the basic way we browse movies hasn’t changed all that much. We peruse poster after poster, kind of like walking the aisles of a ‘90s-era video store. That one poster image, meant to appeal to as many people as possible, is often all we see before […]

What I’ll be covering at NAB 2018

The National Association of Broadcasters show kicks off this weekend in Las Vegas.  The show focuses on new and emerging technologies and trends in relation to the media and entertainment industries. As it’s not open to the public, I’ll be at the Las Vegas Convention Center on Saturday, Monday and Wednesday to share some of […]