VJ Books Blog

(Hot Springs Village Voice, Nov. 26, 2008, Brenda Thomas)

Ivan Doig, a western writer (not a writer of westerns) joined an elite group of authors (Wallace Stegner, Rick Bass, Annie Proulx, etc.) who craft novels in this genre with his debut novel This House of Sky some 30 years ago.

His subsequent books haven’t caught the fancy of readers despite the publication of nearly a dozen written since.

That being said, his latest book fares somewhat better. A tale well-suited for those of us who lived during the era of Tom Brokaw’s Greatest Generation will find this story evocative, set in the scant first years of the early 1940s when WWII simmered and fired, affecting a nation just starting to recover from the great depression.

The Eleventh Man, one of a championship college football team who enlist nearly en masse, travels across a worldwide stage, following a story of governmental manipulation, contrived propaganda, and even illicit wartime romances.

Underlying this narrative is a subliminal racial friction, not just haves versus havenots, but half-breeds against those who created that particular status and then segregated them to often wretched reservations.

The protagonist, a journalism major, is assigned to follow and chronicle this handful of men’s wartime experiences and careers, sending his narrative back to smalltown newspaper publishers, including his father.

As these wartime dramas evolve, it slowly dawns on him what is insidiously happening.

He is helpless to change the outcome. He only can report it.

If you can get through the first few chapters, the story will engross you.

Doig’s prose is ample reward; his phrases have such a cadence and meter that you will find yourself re-reading them – often aloud – just to savor them again.

See Ivan Doig books at www.vjbooks.com