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Wednesday, 11 September 2013

'Wonderfully evocative and complex': The Red House On The Niobrara


 
 
 
I've just been looking through some of the reviews of my first e-book, The Red House On The Niobrara, and liked them so much that I decided to reproduce a sampling here.
                            
This one is from an eminent western historian, Richard W Etulain:

"British writer Alan Wilkinson provides a wonderfully evocative and complex part memoir… of an intriguing place in his The Red House on the Niobrara. A skilled writer, a keen student of flora and fauna, and a devotee of the American West, Wilkinson furnishes an interest-whetting account of his spring, summer, and early fall months in Nebraska's famed Sandhills.

Wilkinson also lards his well-written narrative with other valuable discussions. We learn of his own journeys from
England to the American West, about the little Red House on the Niobrara where lived in his months in the Sandhills, and meet dozens of Nebraskans (especially ranchers and small-town residents) and travelers/tourists who crossed the author's meandering paths. And the pesky crawling and flying pests--flies, bugs, grasshoppers, and fleas--hop in and out (mainly into) Wilkinson's pages.

Most important, Wilkinson achieves his major goal: he catches "the spirit of place"--and delivers it delightfully."

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I was particularly pleased by this one from South Dakota writer-rancher Linda M Hasselstrom. Praise from a down-to-earth rancher was particularly sweet to my ears.

"I enjoyed Wilkinson's no-nonsense narration; he didn't try to make himself a hero or sneer at the rural folks as so many non-resident writers do. His humor is subtle humor, low key; in fact, at its best, it reminds me most of Western humor."

  
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Western historian Donald E Green was instrumental in setting up the Mari Sandoz Heritage Center at Chadron State College, NE. It was after reading Sandoz' work that my enthusiasm for the Sandhills was ignited.

"Unlike some earlier writers who wrote of their all too brief "travels" across the land, Wilkinson writes about his day-to-day experiences actually living and writing during his stay of six months at the "rude" Red House on the Niobrara River in the Sandhills of Nebraska, one of the most extensive and finest cattle-ranching regions in the nation. He writes with both mind and feelings, finding the exact phrases to tell us about grasses, flowers, "critters," cows and the cow-folks who live off this land, people who regard their way of life close to mother-earth as the norm and look upon those of us who are city-folk in our heavily mortgaged oversize houses, credit-card debt and SUVs as the unfortunate ones."

In summation, Alan Wilkinson has completely captured not only the feel of the land and its people, but his readers as well who are forever in his debt

 
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Poe Ballantyne is a writer who has settled in western Nebraska, not many miles from where I stayed in the red house.  

"When you say the word "Nebraska" you can actually make brainwaves go flat, as if you were saying "Algebra," or "Calvin Coolidge," but the part of Nebraska that Alan Wilkinson writes about, these mystical Sandhills which sit upon that marvelous aquifer called the Ogallala, has little in common with that fixed idea that most have of Nebraska as a flat expanse of interminable boredom ribboned by I-80 and sparsely populated with pigs, rednecks, and blue-eyed howdies juggling their nuts among the deep rows of sweet corn. Trust Alan here. He didn't stay at the Holiday Inn and drive his rental down every week to snap photos and draw sketches. He lived and worked here pioneer-style among the people, endured blizzards and hailstorms and locusts. It's refreshing to get a European perspective on this corner of America so generally ignored. Alan came here originally to explore the world of Mari Sandoz, the most famous writer of this area, and as with many, the big skies and solitude and indistinguishable vastness of the prairie, the hard snows and hell-hot summers, put him off at first. Eventually those big skies and vast expanses (along with the charm of wildlife, the distinct flora, and the goodness of the people), as they did with me, got in his blood. Alan has a fine eye and much to say. I highly recommend this book and I'm pleased to see him free."

  
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Some reviews are, to say the least, pithy. What else would you expect from a Nebraska farmer?
 
"Alan did a wonderfull job telling it the way it really is . This to me, is the highest form of praise I know."