Friday, February 25, 2011
Forgotten Books: THE BUFFALO BOX by Frank Gruber
Here’s another adventure of my favorite Gruber character, Simon Lash.
The Buffalo Box (1942) is the second of three novels in the series. I reviewed the first, Simon Lash - Private Detective, last year.
One reason I prefer Lash to Gruber heroes like Johnny Fletcher and The Human Encyclopedia is that like me, Lash is a book collector - and like Gruber, he’s a student of Western history. I have the feeling Gruber identified more with Lash than with his other series characters.
The first Simon Lash book, you may recall, made reference to many works of Old West Americana, and ended with Lash visiting a outlaw hideout run by the son of Billy the Kid.
In The Buffalo Box, Simon Lash concentrates on just one old book, and one just one famous incident. But it’s one of enduring interest - the Donner Party Expedition.
The story kicks off when a bewhiskered old gent in prospector’s garb rides up to Lash’s door and claims to be Lansford Hastings, author of The Emigrant’s Route to Oregon and California, the book that guided the Donner Party to their doom. Trouble is, that book was published in 1845, and the author died in 1870.
But the guy shows Lash a box adorned with carved buffaloes - a box we later learn was carved by a wealthy member of the Donner Party. From that point on, descendants of Donner Party folks come popping out of the woodwork, and they all seem to be after a treasure buried back at the pass. Like all of Gruber’s mysteries, this one’s peopled with quirky characters and packed with plot twists, but has the added attraction of being peppered with Donner trivia.
And you’ll be pleased to know: No people are eaten in the course of the story.
Visit pattinase for the line-up of all of this week’s Forgotten Books!