Bill & Cindy Paul,
Shadow of an Indian Star
(Synergy, 2005)

Based on true events, this story takes place in the Indian Territory and follows the ancestry of three generations of the Smith Paul family living among and within the Chickasaw Nation. It's 1825, and the 16-year-old Smith Paul runs away from his troubled North Carolina home. Along the way he meets a family, Rev. McClure and his wife, Ala-Teecha of the Chickasaw tribe, who adopt Smith as their own. It is here he learns and understands what it is to be part of the Indian community and he decides it is his fate to forge Smith Paul's valley, where he vowed that whites, Indians and blacks would all be treated the same.

A mutual attraction between Smith and Ala-Teecha naturally goes nowhere while McClure still rules the roost, but when McClure dies of a nasty illness, it seems only natural that Ala-Teecha and Smith Paul should marry. They have a son, Sam Paul, a wildcard with the same energy as his father but not the same discipline. He is a half-breed who rides with a renegade posse including former Billy the Kid sidekick (and Sam Paul's cousin) Fred Waite. Sam causes much havoc, abandons his wife and children, and is in and out of jail until he decides to try the straight and narrow by becoming the town sheriff. He gets accused and proved guilty of the murders of two local men.

After he is freed, Sam tries to redeem himself with politics just like his father, who by this time has moved to California to be with his new young wife. Sam's son Joe has grown up hating the father who abandoned him, but is filled with a hybrid of admiration and damnation for Sam. Joe seduces Sam's wife Jennie, and bullets seem to be the only answer to this insult.

This is only a general plotline of a hefty read. I wasn't sure this would be my cup of tea at all, but I became quite engrossed in the story. It reads like a film script, making it all the more satisfying that it's based on true events.

On the downside, the women are written as feeble characters. Perhaps this was a sign of the times, but frequently I noticed that the women were passive victims who mostly seemed included for breeding purposes. The focus is definitely on the men in this family.

Bill and Cindy Paul have written their characters well. I definitely became quite enthralled with this book, and I immediately researched the Paul family afterwards and couldn't help but think it would make an excellent screenplay. Shadow of an Indian Star is an epic true tale that I would recommend to anyone with a vivid imagination.

by Jo Overfield
21 January 2006

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