Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History

Roger Hodge writes:

Quanah’s prominence in recent popular accounts owes as much to his being the half-breed child of a captive white woman as to his prowess as a war leader. The romance of the defiant noble savage was less attractive while the Indian wars still raged. For most of the last 175 years Cynthia Ann has been the focus of attention, with the story of her abduction and the slaughter at Parker’s Fort told and retold in newspapers, magazines and romantic novels that imagined love among the prairie flowers between a lovely white squaw and a darkly handsome young buck. It wasn’t until he surrendered in 1875 and presented himself to Colonel Ranald Mackenzie at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, that his parentage became known and the slow work of fashioning his legend began. Since then, dozens of books have been written about Quanah and the tragic life of his mother. Gwynne’s Empire of the Summer Moon is the most ambitious of the many books about Quanah Parker, and the entwined dramas of Quanah and Cynthia Ann Parker are only part of the story. Gwynne has set out to write a western epic, and his narrative is enormously entertaining.

(LRB 15 December 2011)