Ridgeline: A Novel (Paperback)
My son texted me from a sandy beach in Puerto Rico with a picture of this book + a message "I cannot put this down" - Truth! It's a page turner; a compelling historical novel defining the Native American's values + dreams in 1866-1867 while their lives, livelihood + culture are being transformed by the invasion of the West by the U.S. Army + western bound pioneers. Excellant!
— From Tara's Staff Picks
The thrilling, long-awaited return of the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Revenant
Winner of the 2022 Spur Award for Best Western Historical Novel
Winner of the 2021 David. J. Langum, Sr. Prize in American Historical Fiction
2021 Montana Book Award Honoree
In 1866, with the country barely recovered from the Civil War, new war breaks out on the western frontier—a clash of cultures between the Native tribes who have lived on the land for centuries and a young, ambitious nation. Colonel Henry Carrington arrives in Wyoming’s Powder River Valley to lead the US Army in defending the opening of a new road for gold miners and settlers. Carrington intends to build a fort in the middle of critical hunting grounds, the home of the Lakota. Red Cloud, one of the Lakota’s most respected chiefs, and Crazy Horse, a young but visionary warrior, understand full well the implications of this invasion. For the Lakota, the stakes are their home, their culture, their lives.
As fall bleeds into winter, Crazy Horse leads a small war party that confronts Colonel Carrington’s soldiers with near constant attacks. Red Cloud, meanwhile, wants to build the tribal alliances that he knows will be necessary to defeat the soldiers. Colonel Carrington seeks to hold together a US Army beset with internal discord. Carrington’s officers are skeptical of their commander’s strategy, none more so than Lieutenant George Washington Grummond, who longs to fight a foe he dismisses as inferior in all ways. The rank-and-file soldiers, meanwhile, are still divided by the residue of civil war, and tempted to desertion by the nearby goldfields.
Throughout this taut saga—based on real people and events—Michael Punke brings the same immersive, vivid storytelling and historical insight that made his breakthrough debut so memorable. As Ridgeline builds to its epic conclusion, it grapples with essential questions of conquest and justice that still echo today.
About the Author
Michael Punke is the author of several books including The Revenant, a #1 New York Times bestseller and basis for the Academy Award–winning film. In his diverse professional career, Punke has served as the US ambassador to the World Trade Organization in Geneva, history correspondent for the Montana Quarterly, and an adjunct professor at the University of Montana. As a high school and college student, he worked summers as a living history interpreter at Fort Laramie National Historic Site in Wyoming. He lives with his family in Montana and is an avid outdoorsman.
“A thrilling, gut-twisting series of sprung traps and harrowing violence—an action sequence that’s very much the stuff of legend.”
—The Wall Street Journal
“The characters and places Punke writes about do crackle with life.”
—The Missoulian (Editor's Pick)
“A thrilling and heartbreaking read...”
—The Saturday Evening Post
“Punke, with his eye for detail and obsessive research, is unflinching in his portrayal of how America as we know it came to be.”
“A page-turning novelization...Punke skillfully weaves together the soldiers’ ongoing division over the causes of the Civil War, Grummond’s thirst for glory, and the Lakota’s struggle for survival to create a nuanced account of the events...Highly character-driven as it races toward its heartbreaking, though inevitable, conclusion. Readers will come away with a knowledge not only of the battle itself, but also of everyday life in the Army camp and among the Lakota. Highly recommended.”
—Historical Novel Society
“It’s a rollicking read, filled with insights and action....Punke’s historical novel now joins the canon of books that takes a balanced and empathetic look at what happened when Manifest Destiny ran head-on into 'the warrior horsemen of the Northern Plains.'”
“Punke is brilliant...[Ridgeline] confirms his mastery as a writer...The day of the battle is described in unflinching detail. The devastation feels real. Punke deeply respects Native American tribal history, and explains how an uneasy tribal allegiance led to battle victory...Ridgeline transcends genre categorization—any sophisticated reader would appreciate this novel.”
“[An] engrossing account of the violence and horror of a Wyoming massacre...Punke makes the battle vivid, and draws deep characterizations of individuals on both sides, exploring Crazy Horse’s fear of impending change, U.S. soldiers’ indifference to fighting, and a captain’s lament of the breakdown of discipline and reason within the battalion’s leadership. This is historical fiction at its best.”
—Publisher's Weekly (starred)
“Richly detailed…fast paced…expansive, vivid…A nuanced story of conflict between Native people and Whites on the 19th-century American frontier.”
“A foreboding sense of ruin and sadness clings to each page, and this novel transcends genre. Any reader who appreciates history will love it.”
—My Journal Courier
“Ridgeline is an exciting, vividly-imagined reconstruction of an extraordinary moment in the history of the American West. The novel is scrupulously researched, and its account of the major figures on both sides of a vicious conflict—their fears and desires, their strengths and their weaknesses—is insightful and thoroughly revealing.”
—Ian McGuire, author of North Water and The Abstainer
“Telling the fateful story leading up to the Battle of a Hundred in the Hand, Ridgeline is a novel of singular artistry.”
—Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana
“Punke understands the land, events, and brings the characters here to life. This is a great work of fiction that's more accurate than most non-fiction on the subject.”
—Donovin Arleigh Sprague, Author of Cheyenne River Sioux and nine other books and great, great, great grandson of High Backbone
“Like The Revenant, Ridgeline tackles another huge legend of the west and sets it right. With a memorable cast of characters, Punke tells the story of the Fetterman massacre, one of the final and most significant Native American victories over the US Army. A highly compelling page turner; you won’t be able to put it down.”
—Philipp Meyer, author of The Son and American Rust
“In his kaleidoscopic telling of a little-known battle on the sacred Lakota hunting grounds of Wyoming, Punke has created a modern classic and worthy successor to The Revenant. Brave, thrilling, and heartbreaking, Ridgeline brings the history of conquest in the American West to unforgettable life.”
—Tatjana Soli, author of The Lotus Eaters and The Removes