Empire of the Summer Moon
Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History
By S. C. Gwynne
Published by Scribner May 2010
* Pulitzer Prize Finalist
* National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist
* WINNER – Texas Book Award and the Oklahoma Book Award
Empire of the Summer Moon spans two astonishing stories. The first traces the rise and fall of the Comanches, the most powerful Indian tribe in American history. The second entails one of the most remarkable narratives ever to come out of the Old West: the epic saga of the pioneer woman Cynthia Ann Parker and her mixed-blood son Quanah, who became the last and greatest chief of the Comanches.
Although readers may be more familiar with the tribal names Apache and Sioux, it was in fact the legendary fighting ability of the Comanches that determined just how and when the American West opened up. Comanche boys became adept bareback riders by age six; full Comanche braves were considered the best horsemen who ever rode. They were so masterful at war and so skillful with their arrows and lances that they stopped the northern drive of colonial Spain from Mexico and halted the French expansion westward from Louisiana. White settlers arriving in Texas from the eastern United States were surprised to find the frontier being rolled backward by Comanches incensed by the invasion of their tribal lands. So effective were the Comanches that they forced the creation of the Texas Rangers and account for the advent of the new weapon specifically designed to fight them: the six-gun.
The war with the Comanches lasted four decades, in effect holding up the development of the new American nation. Gwynne’s exhilarating account delivers a sweeping narrative that encompasses Spanish colonialism, the Civil War, the destruction of the buffalo herds, and the arrival of the railroads—a historical feast for anyone interested in how the United States came into being.
Against this backdrop Gwynne presents the compelling drama of Cynthia Ann Parker, a lovely nine-year-old girl with cornflower-blue eyes who was kidnapped by Comanches from the far Texas frontier in 1836. She grew to love her captors and became infamous as the “White Squaw” who refused to return until her tragic capture by Texas Rangers in 1860. More famous still was her son Quanah, a warrior who was never defeated and whose guerrilla wars in the Texas Panhandle made him a legend.
S. C. Gwynne’s account of these events is meticulously researched, intellectually provocative, and, above all, thrillingly told. Empire of the Summer Moon announces him as a major new writer of American history.
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Praise for Empire of the Summer Moon:
“Transcendent . . . Empire of the Summer Moon is nothing short of a revelation . . . will leave dust and blood on your jeans.” —New York Times Book Review
“After reading Empire of the Summer Moon, you’ll never think about Texas, or the Great Plains, in quite the same way again.” —Hampton Sides, author of Blood and Thunder
“In Empire of the Summer Moon, Sam Gwynne has given us a rich, vividly detailed rendering of an important era in our history and of two great men, Quanah Parker and Ranald Slidell Mackenzie, whose struggles did much to define it.” —Larry McMurtry
“Glorious…Readers are in for an eye-opening trek…Empire of the Summer Moon expands our sense of what it has meant to be an American. Expect it on my list of the best books of the year.” —Cleveland Plain Dealer
“Mesmerizing…while this is a nonfiction book about war, it is equally a book about two nations trying to control their destinies by whatever means necessary. In Quanah Parker, Gwynne has found the perfect vehicle for telling that story.” —Chicago Tribune
“Among the strengths of this powerful book are the author’s novelistic skills, the unstoppable pace of the narrative, and the vivid delineation of its historical characters…Empire of the Summer Moon is skillfully told, brutal history.” —Dallas Morning News