Snake Mountain
Western Fiction
6 x 9, 236 pp.
Pub Date: 04/01/2000
  cloth
Price:        $24.50

978-0-87565-221-4

Published by Texas Christian University Press

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Snake Mountain

By Jerry Craven

A coming-of-age novel set against the background of the Palo Duro Canyon and two violent cultures that coexist in contemporary West Texas, Snake Mountain opens with Jason White’s arrival in the Los Angeles airport on his way to Texas and college life. A sudden, violent murder in the airport confirms his belief that America is a senselessly violent country and strengthens his doubts about having left Malaysia, where he lived most of his life. His impression is confirmed when Angela, a hand on the ranch where he will live, meets him in Amarillo. Before she can even drive him to the ranch, Angela becomes involved in an exchange of gunfire with her estranged husband. In spite of his opposition to violence, Jason soon finds himself involved in the cowboy culture of West Texas as well as with the biker culture in Amarillo. Each group draws him into its own brands of love and violence.

Angela introduces Jason to horseback riding, western auctions, the handling of firearms, her own freewheeling religious rituals, and the pleasure of physical intimacy. But it is Sybil Redbear, a woman of mixed racial ancestry, who Jason comes to value most, in spite of her connection to the Amarillo bikers and their cult of violence.

Hyram, the rancher who takes Jason into his home, teaches him the difference between a friendly fight and one that involves friends pummeling each other but with no meanness of intent and a fight with someone who intends to do genuine injury. Jason witnesses a friendly fight at a cowboy social but ultimately becomes involved in a real fight with Angela’s estranged husband. This strong novel explores not only cultural conflict but the place of violence in America.

Jerry Craven has published nonfiction, short stories, and poetry and has won several awards for his work. Craven has taught in universities in Malaysia, Azerbaijan, and Texas. He is currently professor of literature and creative writing at West Texas A&M University, Canyon, Texas.

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