A Native American hero's journey in which the monster is a U.S. Congressman and the netherworld is a Pennsylvania prison.
The story opens in Paris in the dwindling days of the summer of 1956. Coop Rever, a Native American expatriate who is the protagonist of THE DREAM DANCER, is getting ready to travel to Algeria to gather material for his third book on the French Foreign Legion. Coop is a war correspondent and author, educated at the Sorbonne under the World War II GI Bill. Coop dreams that he has been chosen to be a messenger of God. Although skeptical and unwilling at the outset, Coop undertakes the role when the evidence that he is the chosen one becomes so overwhelming he cannot deny it.
Coop lay back barely awake in the rickety, striped cloth chaise longue at the end of another hot August day, softened by a deliciously cool breeze. For the past three or four weeks, he had been pulled from the depths of sleep several times a night by an inexplicable, uneasy feeling that vexed him through each day. He looked through the Chateauneuf du Pape in his crystal glass, holding it high against the sky, examining the color. Deep red. His father-in-law could give a lecture on the color of the wine in this glass and a twelve-week course on the scent and the taste. Coop grew up in a world where the standard was how cold was the Iron City Beer. He sipped the wine, tasted good, and almost started into his work, but his eye caught a procession of six ducks riding the current down the Rhone River. He watched until they were gone. He lit a Gitane, sucking the tobacco smoke deep into his lungs. Six of them. A number reminding him that for years he had neglected the simple ritual an Okwe was expected to perform at the beginning of every day and at the edge of any undertaking. Something stirred him to go through that long-abandoned ceremony. He used the cigaret to smudge the air, in the six directions, north, south, east and west around his head, a drop of his hand to earth, a stretch to the heavens, thanking, Koona Manitou, the Creator, for his life and energy.
Not much energy today, he thought. He placed the empty glass next to the bottle on the side table, leaning far enough out of his chair to fetch the thick file on the Algerian insurgency. He had collected newspaper and magazine clips, photos, maps, and a bound Army intelligence report that included brief biographies of the known leaders of the Front de Liberation Nationale and an account of the massacre in el Halia, a mining town near Philippeville, on Algeria's Mediterranean Coast. He had assembled the dossier just before he left Paris with Eleonore and Elise on the first day of August for the annual escape from the city's oppressive heat. Now with September and the close of the summer holiday just three days away, he was forcing himself out of his malaise to read the details of the turmoil in Algeria, which was to be the subject of his third book, the central character a French Foreign Legionnaire. Coop was attracted to the Legionnaires. Taken to their essence they were pure warriors whose loyalty was to one another, not to France, a country that was not theirs.
He opened the intelligence report on the slaughter in el Halia. Algerians, miners and peasants in this case, had used axes and scythes, knives and picks, to kill 123 men, women and children, pied noirs, as they called the European settlers. The violence was vicious and personal. Women were raped. Babies were cut up. Legs, arms, p*nises hacked from the men. French soldiers had evened the score by killing twelve or thirteen-hundred Algerians, perhaps including some who actually had participated in the massacre. There was a glossy print inserted in the report. He studied the picture, a row of bodies, all children, 12 and younger. The Army's justification for the frenzy of revenge. He remembered what Lenin said, "Le but du terrorisme est terrorize." He smirked. He was even thinking in French now. He turned his mind back to English: "The purpose of terrorism is to terrorize." His contemplation of Lenin's caustic aphorism in the context of Algeria was interrupted by the tinkling of the silver bell, the one traditionally used in their family to announce an important dinner or a special treat.
Eleonore and Elise were back. He was surprised they were so early. He had expected them to spend several hours more at her parents, maybe even to stay for dinner. Eleonore's mother probably had sent one of the fruit tarts she loved to bake. He picked up the glass and
the half-empty wine bottle, packed up his files, and slowly walked back to the house. He wasn't irritated by the interruption. He didn't feel like working. He was annoyed to find the back door closed, forcing him to unload his glassware and files onto a table, to open the door, which usually stuck. He pushed it in, and there was Eleonore, smiling, naked, slender, voluptuous. The fragrance of her freshly perfumed body filling the room. She stood in the bedroom doorway in an exaggerated pose with a bottle of champagne in her right hand extended high above her head, and two flute glasses in her left. "Voila," she said.
Obviously, Elise was staying with her grandparents tonight. "Paradise awaits," Eleonore said, turning into the bedroom. He followed close behind.