Monday, September 1, 2008


Twenty-three years after I wrote a novel called KINZUA, I began to rewrite it. The reason I was attempting to resurrect KINZUA was that in 1970, the book had gotten me an agent, who loved it and tried to sell it but failed. In addition, several of my colleagues at Newsday read it and said they couldn’t put it down. In retrospect, I can’t believe how low their standards were or how dishonest they were in giving me their assessments.
Any way, I reread KINZUA and was dismayed by how lousy a book it was.
The idea for KINZUA had come from the construction of the Kinzua Dam, which flooded a large part of a Seneca Indian reservation in northwestern Pennsylvania. The Seneca had the usual treaty with the United States, which promised that their people and their land would be undisturbed as long as the water flowed and the grass grew. And they were left alone for a couple of hundred years until powerful economic forces decided to seize a large piece of their reservation so it could be used for a combination of flood control, a power plant, and a huge lake for recreation.
KINZUA was a novel with mystical underpinnings in which a Seneca secret society conjures up a supernatural force that destroys the Kinzua Dam and in the process convinces the U.S. Government not to rebuild the dam.
In rewriting KINZUA into THE DREAM DANCER, I abandoned not only the characters and plot of the original novel, but eliminated references to the actual Kinzua Dam and the Seneca. Instead, I created an imaginary city, river and Native American band somewhere in Northwestern Pennsylvania, but kept the original concept of the federal government double-crossing a seemingly helpless handful of Native Americans called the Okwe.
Coop Rever, the protagonist of THE DREAM DANCER is chosen by the Great Spirit to carry out a deed that will save the Okwe land from being flooded by a dam and Okwe culture from being destroyed by a Congressman with a hidden agenda of revenge. Coop Rever, who had become a successful author and war correspondent, reluctantly becomes the Dream Dancer of the title at a great cost to himself: losing his wife and daughter and spending decades in a cruel prison for killing the Congressman and his family.
I consider THE DREAM DANCER my first fully realized novel. And, after many rereadings of the entire book and individual chapters, I have reached the immodest conclusion that it is a work of art. THE DREAM DANCER can be read on line at my website.

The next novel I will review is THE SPIES OF WARSAW by Alan Furst

A suggestion: My latest novel, THE PENCIL ARTIST is available as an e-book on Smashwords, Kindle, and Barnes and Noble; as a paperback on Amazon.

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