Washita!: Weird Custer by William Sumrall: Excellence in Dark Fiction

In September 1868, General Philip Sheridan appointed Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer to lead a campaign against Black Kettle’s Southern Cheyenne camp on the Washita River (near present-day Cheyenne, Oklahoma).

They were the most isolated band of a major winter encampment along the river of numerous Native American tribal bands, totaling thousands of people. But Custer did not attempt to make a cursory scouting of the situation. Black Kettle’s people were at peace and seeking peeking peace: the village was on reservation soil, where the commander of Fort Cobb had guaranteed them safety. Custer’s soldiers killed women and children in addition to warriors, although they also took many captives to serve as hostages and human shields.

In ‘WASHITA! Weird Custer’ Sumrall draws heavily from historical anecdotes with his speculations as to what really occurred in the Valley of the Washita during that time. Sumrall has set the book against the backdrop of historic events. The book is crude: the men are psychopaths and the women coarse. The first chapter starts on a pretentious note, but Sumrall mellows it down after around 4th chapter.

There are bad books and there are good books. The bad ones are usually the ones where the authors are usually clueless about the actual writing process. That’s how I define a bad book. I’ve given 1 or 2 stars to excellent books because they were not for me. But the authors in question knew how to write (examples: Lolita, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo). As for as I’m concerned those books do not fall in ‘bad’ category. They are excellent books but 1 star for me. And then, there are actual bad books; ‘The Couple Next Door’ kind of books where author has no clue how to write. (Sorry, Shari!)

Sumrall’s Washita! Weird Custer is a different kind of bad book for me: Sumrall is well versed in the technique of writing, but his inclination toward all things dark killed it for me. There is too much darkness: graphic scenes of violence, nudity, sketchy descriptions, men’s hunger for blood and killing, women’s thirst for sex. You name it and book has it all. All of major male protagonists are savage, ruthless, and cruel. And women have no role to play other than the sexual objects in the story.

I read other reviews on amazon and one of them said something about liking the way women were portrayed in the story. I couldn’t believe it. The women are essentially crude. They all are sex-starved in their own way and does nothing else; If I thought Margaret was over the top, Libby’s weird taste made her seem a winner. But in the mean time, Beverly reveals herself and Monahsetah beats them all (she has a short appearance…two episodes and whoa! what an appearance.). Thanks to Sumrall for sparing Elisa at least. I was left disgusted by the end (sorry, no spoilers).

On the plus side, the story is interesting, book’s pace is fast, the characters are drawn beautifully (dark and despicable, but that was author’s intention, and he succeeded in his endeavour) and Sumrall’s writing is excellent; four stars overall. There is some magic-related stuff, weird descriptions that seem off topic and the book could have done better without those.

I was left slightly nauseated and found the book despicable. But if your taste incline toward well-written darker fiction and you have this desire to see the dark mind confirmed and constricted on pages of a book, the book is definitely for you. I’m going to shy away from dark stuff for coming months I guess.