Bowen, Peter 1945-
BOWEN, Peter 1945-
Agent—c/o Author Mail, St. Martin's Minotaur, 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10027.
"YELLOWSTONE KELLY" SERIES; WESTERN NOVELS
Yellowstone Kelly: Gentleman and Scout, Jameson Books (Ottawa, IL), 1987.
Kelly Blue, Crown Publishers (New York, NY), 1991.
Imperial Kelly, Crown Publishers (New York, NY), 1992.
Kelly and the Three-toed Horse, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2001.
"GABRIEL DU PRÉ" SERIES; MYSTERY NOVELS
Coyote Wind, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1994.
Specimen Song, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1995.
Wolf, No Wolf (also see below), St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1996.
Notches (also see below), St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1997.
Thunder Horse, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1998.
Long Son, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1999.
The Stick Game, St. Martin's Minotaur (New York, NY), 2000.
Cruzatte and Maria, St. Martin's Minotaur (New York, NY), 2001.
Ash Child, St. Martin's Minotaur (New York, NY), 2002.
Wolf, No Wolf; and Notches: The Third and Fourth Montana Mysteries Featuring Gabriel Du Pré, St. Martin's Minotaur (New York, NY), 2002.
Badlands, St. Martin's Minotaur (New York, NY), 2003.
The Tumbler, St. Martin's Minotaur (New York, NY), 2004.
Also author, under pseudonym Coyote Jack, of a column about life in the modern American West.
In his two fiction series about the American West, author Peter Bowen has created central characters who possess wisdom, wry wit, a respect for nature and tradition, and a contempt for the intrusions into and disruptions of the old ways of life. His first series, featuring Luther Sage "Yellowstone" Kelly, is set in the late nineteenth century and combines a tall-tale style and historical characters in adventures that have been compared to the novels of Thomas Berger. Bowen's Gabriel Du Pré books are set in modern times and feature murder mysteries that highlight the cultural conflict between the lives of Montana ranchers and Native Americans with intruding tourists, yuppies, environmentalists, and big corporations.
Bowen's Yellowstone Kelly is a scout who possesses the modesty and wisdom of a mountain man, and a respect for Native Americans matched only by his penetratingly humorous observations. First appearing in Yellowstone Kelly: Gentleman and Scout, he finds himself repeatedly taking on the role of reluctant hero as he is compelled to assist Colonel Nelson Miles's destruction of the Nez Percé and, later in the novel, finds himself in southern Africa fighting the Zulus in the Boer War. Although the subject matter can be grim, according to critics, Kelly's perspective on these historical events lambastes the ways of Western civilization with pinpoint accuracy. Noting that "Bowen gets it right" when he describes the life and attitude of the mountain men Kelly represents, Linda Hasselstrom asserted in her Bloomsbury Review article that in addition to the humor in the tale, "Bowen also manages some powerful commentary on history."
Readers get to find out more about Kelly's background in Kelly Blue, in which it is learned how Kelly first headed west after an improper liaison with the daughter of a bishop, briefly fought in the Union Army during the Civil War, and then was apprenticed to mountain man Jim Bridger, a real-life historical figure. The novel then proceeds into a story about Kelly's involvement with the Mormons after he is captured by Brigham Young, followed by his search for Young's daughter, who has fled her family with some embarrassing letters. In Imperial Kelly, Yellowstone is recruited by President Theodore Roosevelt to travel the world in search of opportunities for America to take advantage of trouble spots for its imperialist intentions. Along the way, Kelly encounters numerous famous figures, such as Butch Cassidy and the Sun-dance Kid, Mohandas Gandhi, and Philippine hero Emilio Aguinaldo. Kelly does not return again in Bowen's fiction for almost ten years, appearing in 2001's Kelly and the Threetoed Horse, in which the adventurer helps paleontologist Jonathan Cope in a race to find a fossilized Eohippus before a competing scientist does.
Critics of the Kelly series have praised the humor and character portrayals in the novels, though sometimes they have expressed misgivings about Bowen's occasionally "herky-jerky" plots, as one Kirkus Reviews contributor described them in a review of Kelly and the Three-toed Horse. Peter M. Leschak similarly described Bowen's plotting as "ragged in spots" in a New York Times Book Review assessment of Yellowstone Kelly. However, like many critics Leschak found the yarns "well-spun and terribly funny." And such humor is often useful commentary, too, as one Kirkus Reviews critic noted in an article about Kelly Blue. Here, the reviewer explained, Bowen helps make the Native Americans sympathetic to readers by giving them a very human sense of humor as well; thus, "because the Indians are people who make jokes … rather than saints who make epic movies, their fate is genuinely bitter."
Bowen brings his sympathies for the Old West up to date with his modern adventures featuring Gabriel Du Pré, a Canadian Métis man of mixed French, Scottish, and Native American descent who is a fiddler, cattle inspector, tracker, deputy, and sleuth living in Toussaint, Montana. Du Pré's involvement in solving a variety of murders helps to highlight the true-to-life conflict between the farmers who wish to pursue a disappearing way of life and the ecologists and dogooder yuppie tourists whose holier-than-thou attitude is, in Du Pré's mind at least, founded upon an ignorance of nature and a centuries-old way of life. Du Pré, who was once thrown out of a movie theater for laughing at the film Dancing with Wolves at inappropriate times, shares the wry wit of Bowen's Kelly but is perhaps even more jaded. New York Times Book Review critic Jonis Agee described him as "the antihero of Hemingway and Hammett … brought … up to date." Du Pré and his home are constantly beset by outsiders who wreak havoc and even commit murder. In Wolf, No Wolf, for example, people and wolves are being killed in a deadly struggle between ranchers and eco-terrorists who want a large tract of land converted into protected wilderness. "Bowen is ruthlessly funny about the intruders and their senseless indifference to the long traditions that govern talk and action in this outback world," commented Washington Post Book World contributor Paul Skenazy. However, Bowen does not portray the Montanans as saints. Du Pré realizes in the story that the local people are guilty of the killings, and this plunges him into a moral crisis of his own.
Other Du Pré mysteries illustrate similar conflicts. In The Stick Game, for example, the tobacco industry seems to be responsible for birth defects among the native peoples; in Cruzatte and Maria, documentary filmmakers invade the community and turn the locals' lives upside down; in Ash Child, crystal meth dealers prey on the teenagers of Toussaint; and in Badlands, the host of a Yahweh cult sets up camp in the area, recruiting new members and apparently killing those who defect. In these and other Du Pré stories, critics have repeatedly noted Bowen's sense of humor and welldrawn characters. Many critics particularly enjoyed not only the main character in these mysteries, but also Du Pré's supporting cast, which includes the sleuth's wealthy friend Bart, the wine-guzzling holy man Benetsee, and Du Pré's love interest, Madelaine. "Bowen is an absolute wizard with characters," attested Marc Ruby in a Mystery Reader review of Cruzatte and Maria, adding that they come "brilliantly to life," and that "perhaps the best thing about Bowen's writing is his insight into the Métis Indians."
Most of all, reviewers have approved of the underlying theme of the Du Pré books, which "are about a vanishing way of life and the determined souls who fight a rear-guard action to keep it alive," as Wes Lukowsky put it in a Booklist review of Ash Child. Du Pré's "unapologetically up-the establishment point of view and Bowen's offspeed prose make him one of the most striking … regional detectives" writing today, concluded a Kirkus Reviews contributor.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Armchair Detective, spring, 1997, Douglas G. Simpson, review of Notches, p. 227.
Bloomsbury Review, July-August, 1989, Linda Hasselstrom, review of Yellowstone Kelly: Gentleman and Scout, pp. 7, 20; July-August, 1996, Gayle L. Novak, review of Wolf, No Wolf, p. 16.
Booklist, May 1, 1991, Cynthia Ogorek, review of Kelly Blue, p. 1692; July, 1994, Wes Lukowsky, review of Coyote Wind, p. 1925; March 15, 1995, George Needham, review of Specimen Song, p. 1311; March 1, 1996, Wes Lukowsky, review of Wolf, No Wolf, p. 1124; March 15, 1997, Wes Lukowsky, review of Notches, p. 1228; April 15, 1998, Wes Lukowsky, review of Thunder Horse, p. 1375; February 15, 1999, Wes Lukowsky, review of Long Son, p. 1044; February 15, 2000, Wes Lukowsky, review of The Stick Game, p. 1087; February 15, 2001, Wes Lukowsky, review of Cruzatte and Maria, p. 1118; March 1, 2001, Wes Lukowsky, review of Kelly and the Three-toed Horse, p. 1225; March 1, 2002, Wes Lukowsky, review of Ash Child, p. 1095; May 1, 2003, Wes Lukowsky, review of Badlands, p. 1532.
Entertainment Weekly, February 21, 1997, Nikki Andur, review of Notches, p. 121.
Kirkus Reviews, May 1, 1991, review of Kelly Blue, p. 263; June 15, 1992, review of Imperial Kelly, p. 732; May 15, 1994, review of Coyote Wind, p. 663; March 15, 1995, review of Specimen Song, p. 349; February 1, 1996, review of Wolf, No Wolf, p. 174; February 15, 1999, review of Long Son, p. 256; February 15, 2000, review of The Stick Game, p. 211; January 15, 2001, review of Cruzatte and Maria, p. 81; February 1, 2001, review of Kelly and the Three-toed Horse, p. 123; March 1, 2003, review of Badlands, p. 348.
Library Journal, April 1, 1991, Robert Jordan, review of Kelly Blue, p. 148; February 2, 1998, review of Thunder Horse, p. 83; March 1, 1998, Rex E. Klett, review of Thunder Horse, p. 131; April 1, 2000, Rex E. Klett, review of The Stick Game, p. 135; April 1, 2001, Rex E. Klett, review of Cruzatte and Maria, p. 137; April 1, 2003, Rex E. Klett, review of Badlands, p. 134.
New York Times Book Review, February 21, 1988, Peter M. Leschak, "In Short," p. 20; November 27, 1994, Jonis Agee, "Thoreau in Big-Sky Country," p. 24; March 2, 1997, Marilyn Stasio, review of Notches, p. 20; April 19, 1998, Marilyn Stasio, review of Thunder Horse, p. 30; May 5, 2002, Marilyn Stasio, "Crime," p. 24.
Publishers Weekly, June 29, 1992, review of Imperial Kelly, p. 55; June 27, 1994, review of Coyote Wind,p. 60; March 6, 1995, review of Specimen Song, p. 62; December 2, 1996, review of Notches, p. 43; March 29, 1999, review of Long Son, p. 94; March 6, 2000, review of The Stick Game, p. 86; February 12, 2001, review of Cruzatte and Maria, p. 186; February 26, 2001, review of Kelly and the Threetoed Horse, p. 62; March 25, 2002, review of Ash Child, p. 45; April 7, 2003, review of Badlands, p. 49.
Washington Post Book World, March 17, 1996, Paul Skenazy, "Never Cry Wolf," p. 6; March 22, 1998, Paul Skenazy, review of Thunderhorse, p. 6.
Mystery Reader,http://www.themysteryreader.com/ (August 7, 2001), Marc Ruby, review of Cruzatte and Maria.*