The Hunt for the Mountain Man by Raymond Cook takes us back to the turn of the twentieth century, as the “wild west” was just beginning to take on an air of respectability and prosperity. The small town of Marble, Colorado, so named for the magnificent marble quarried nearby, was overrun and destroyed by 400 Shoshone, Sioux, and Paiute Indians, in search of food and trying to recover their lands, stolen from them by the settlers. For the U.S. Government, it was time to make a stand and a Company of U.S. Army troops were sent to Marble to construct a fort and to rebuild the town, thereby encouraging those that survived the 1900 massacre to return and to entice newcomers to settling on the farms nearby and building new businesses in the rebuilt town. The coming of the railroad to Marble would also be a great fillip for the new town and things were looking up for the settlers in Marble. The early 1900’s in Colorado, though, were still rough and ready and a good supply of quality lawmen, led by Sheriff Mark Stein would be needed to keep peace amongst the soldiers, the miners and the settlers. The Indians were not the only problem facing the town of Marble. The wild and violent Mountain Men were always a danger and when four of them came to Marble to try to assassinate Colorado’s Governor at the inauguration of the rail line, all hell would break lose and the hunt was on to rid the district of these Mountain Men.
The Hunt for the Mountain Man is a very readable story, especially if you are a fan of the genre. Author Raymond Cook does an excellent job of setting the scene for the novel and providing a social commentary of this period in history, where expansion and prosperity were rapid, as the west was totally opened up by the arrival of the railroad. Cook provides a superb juxtaposition of the differing characters that inhabited the west in this period. The differences between the soldiers, far from home and isolated in this small community, with the hopeful, conservative and respectable settlers who had come to Marble to settle, to raise families and to build a solid, God-fearing community. When you throw the miners and the notorious mountain men you have a volatile mix that was always going to be a handful for the lawmen. The characters of Mark Stein, the town Sheriff and William Gracey, the hulking U.S. Marshall, were both pivotal to the story; Stein providing the solidity, common sense and even nature to ensure trouble in Marble was kept to a minimum, whilst, Gracey, a trouble-shooter of a U.S. Marshall who would go wherever he was sent, to fix the most difficult of situations, worked well. All-in-all, if you love historical fiction and if you love stories that tell of the privations and trials of early American settlers, this book will resonate with you. A satisfying read and one to recommend.