Eidson, Thomas 1944–
Eidson, Thomas 1944–
Born 1944, in KS.
Home—Back Bay, Boston, MA.
Hill & Knowlton (public relations), president and chief executive officer; Fidelity Investments, executive vice president and director of corporate affairs, Boston, MA. Military service: Served in U.S. Army.
W.H. Smith Thumping Good Read citation, 1995, for St. Agnes' Stand.
St. Agnes' Stand, Putnam (New York, NY), 1994.
The Last Ride, Putnam (New York, NY), 1995, also published as The Missing, Random House (New York, NY), 2003.
All God's Children, M. Joseph (London, England), 1996, Dutton (New York, NY), 1997.
Hannah's Gift, M. Joseph (London, England), 1998.
Souls of Angels, Random House (New York, NY), 2007.
St. Agnes' Stand was adapted for the screen by Larry McMurtry as The Standoff. The film The Missing was based on Eidson's novel The Last Ride and released by Sony Pictures Entertainment, 2003.
Public relations professional and novelist Thomas Eidson is known for writing western fiction emphasizing moral questions and rugged living conditions amid the 1800s Kansas landscape. As a child Eidson heard stories about homesteading life directly from his grandparents, who had been among the first to settle the American West. Eidson has attributed the heightened quality of such storytelling to the fact that it was an important form of entertainment in a land of isolation. Eidson, too, was raised on his parents' farm, and he worked on a Texas ranch as a young man, competing in horse shows and rodeos.
In his debut novel, St. Agnes' Stand, Eidson tells the story of a man on the run. Nat Swanson has just killed a Texas cowboy and, injured in the leg, is having a hard time fleeing to California. On the way west he meets up with a wagon under attack by Apaches that contains several nuns and orphans. Swanson kills an Apache and ends up helping the stranded group, which faces off with the Apaches despite the heat and limited food and water. A nun named St. Agnes provides a contrast to the gruff Swanson; she is absolutely sure that Swanson is a savior sent from God. According to Times Literary Supplement contributor John Melmoth, St. Agnes' Stand effectively portrays the grittiness of the true West with such details as people being slowly baked to death, eyes being gouged out, and other natural and human dangers. But the novelist is over his head, in Melmoth's opinion, when Eidson concentrates on the supernatural and the "mystery of life." A Publishers Weekly reviewer calls Eidson's prose "taut, spare, visual, and reminiscent of Larry McMurtry."
Eidson continues his study of human spirituality in The Last Ride, which contrasts Christianity and Native American beliefs in the American West. Maggie, a devout Christian, is infuriated when her dying father returns home to make amends before he dies. Her father, once married to an Indian, has adopted Native American beliefs while Maggie, the victim of Apache raids, harbors a deep resentment toward Native Americans. When Maggie's eldest daughter is kidnapped by a Native American witch, Maggie is forced to join her father to search for the girl. The father employs Native American magic to help locate the captor and Maggie gains an appreciation of another spiritual paradigm. A Publishers Weekly reviewer found the premise of the story ineffective and termed The Last Ride a "hackneyed effort."
In Eidson's third western, All God's Children, a lone Quaker woman named Pearl Eddy tries to sustain her belief in nonviolence in a town full of Methodists, even though she has roused the ire of her neighbors. Eddy has offered sanctuary in her home to both a black man on the run from lynching and a Japanese family suffering the indignities of racism. Despite some difficulties, Eddy's houseguests eventually become allies. Though one reviewer found the story contrived and predictable, a Publishers Weekly contributor called All God's Children a "powerfully visual tale filled with the timeless virtues of courage and loyalty."
Hannah's Gift is the story of an injured sheriff who awakes to find himself miraculously cured of a gunshot chest wound due to the care of Hannah, a beautiful and mysterious woman. While the sheriff searches for the truth about what happened, he comes to believe that Hannah has powers akin to those of the Virgin Mary. Times Literary Supplement reviewer Andrew M. Brown found the sheriff's character unrealistically sentimental for a man of his day and age, but liked Hannah's development and deemed the novel well done despite the intrusion of an occasional cliche.
Souls of Angels is also something of a western, though it is set in the nineteenth-century pueblo community of Los Angeles. The protagonist is Isadora Lugo, who runs away at the age of eighteen to become a nun, calling herself Sister Ria. Stationed in India, Sister Ria learns that her father has been accused of killing a prostitute and is scheduled to be executed for the crime. Ria, who ran away from home because her father is insane, returns to Los Angeles to help her father. As Sister Ria attempts to find out who killed the prostitute, what follows is a murder mystery surrounding her insane father, her sister, the family maid, and a mysterious man in a brown suit. Reviewers found much of interest in the book, noting its suspenseful plot and the beautiful descriptions of Los Angeles in the 1800s. For instance, Thomas Gaughan, writing in Booklist, stated that Eidson's "rendering of ever-changing Los Angeles is almost palpably real," adding that the story's "vivid characters … will keep readers turning pages." Although Los Angeles Times reviewer Jonathan Kirsch felt that the plot occasionally "resembles a game of Clue," he nevertheless noted the book's "highly cinematic flashbacks." He also remarked that "the pueblo that serves as a painted backdrop for Souls of Angels is a romantic and exotic place."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, October 1, 2007, Thomas Gaughan, review of Souls of Angels, p. 37.
Kirkus Reviews, September 15, 2007, review of Souls of Angels.
Los Angeles Times, December 3, 2007, Jonathan Kirsch, review of Souls of Angels.
Publishers Weekly, March 7, 1994, review of St. Agnes' Stand, p. 56; January 23, 1995, review of The Last Ride, p. 59; May 5, 1997, review of All God's Children, p. 197; September 24, 2007, review of Souls of Angels, p. 44.
Quill and Quire, April, 1994, review of St. Agnes' Stand, p. 6.
Roundup, July, 1995, review of The Last Ride, p. 23.
School Library Journal, July, 1994, review of St. Agnes' Stand, p. 128.
Times Literary Supplement, July 1, 1994, John Melmoth, review of St. Agnes' Stand, p. 20; July 7, 1996, review of All God's Children, p. 25; May 29, 1998, Andrew M. Brown, review of Hannah's Gift, p. 27.