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  • "The destruction of native American cultures might be considered by some readers to be a literary dry hole. But this novel, about a Kiowa man who inadvertently becomes an Oklahoma oil millionaire, is a rich gusher of a novel - and consequently disproves any such notions. The man, born with the name Went On A Journey but renamed David Copperfield in a missionary school, is old enough to know tribal lore but sees his first live buffalo imported from the Bronx Zoo. Not white but unable to be a true Kiowa, David wrestles with cultural isolation in addition to things that everyone wrestles with - love, money, and living a decent and meaningful life. This is a big novel, in all senses - the characters and the incidents of their lives made memorably real." ~

    -Booklist (read full review)

  • "Rich with Indian legends and historical detail, this novel has an interesting feel about it and a thoughtfulness that makes it more than simple entertainment." ~

    -Library Journal (read full review)

  • This is a western novel is the most positive sense, a book that reveals a moment in history even as it tells a story of cultural alienation, love, greed, betrayal and longing. A seasoned raconteur with a historian's command of h is materrial, which includes the Indian myths he weaves into the narrative, Smith ...spins a powerful, poignant but unsentimental story of a Kiowa Indian and his uneasy habitation in the white man's world in the early part of this century....Though the book spans just 25 years, the emotional and psychical distances Smith's characters travel are immense, and his loving narrative makes Buffalo Nickel a compelling read." ~

    -Publishers Weekly (read full review)

  • "Buffalo Nickel is a delightful rarity: an old-fashioned "good read" which tells the life story of a likable and interesting character who truly grows and changes....The novel is a roomy, agreeably slow-paced picaresque whose serious themes (the abrading of Indian culture, the gradual disappearance of space and wilderness) emerge with haunting clarity from a prose that continuously suggests and dramatizes, never once breaking into sermon. Buffalo Nickel may well be the year's best novel." ~

    -USA Today (read full review)



Buffalo Nickel


In the tradition of Larry McMurtry, C.W. Smith's new novel is a sprawling saga of love and money in the American West - the story of "the world's richest Indian.

In 1917 oil was discovered on David Copperfield's land in Oklahoma - and overnight the Kiowa ferryman, a.k.a., Went On A Journey , became a millionaire. From his childhood in the tamed West of a reservation (where buffalo are imported from the Bronx Zoo) to his career as professional Indian in the celluloid Wild West of Hollywood, Buffalo Nickel vividly evokes all the drama and irony of David's life. Here is the moving story of a man torn between two cultures - and two women: Laura Darby, a washed-up vaudeville singer who marries David to grab his money and then ditch him, but sticks around as he becomes a respected movie star and philanthropist; and Iola Conroy, a childhood Kiowa friend and Red Cross nurse who ultimately follows David to California, where she is forced to confront David's marriage - and her own identity. David and his fellow travelers, who also include a crusty oilman and a "do-gooder" disciple of Aimee Semple McPherson, are all trapped by the disorienting aftermath of the white man's conquests of the Indian - and a rage of unfulfilled yearnings erupts as the novel moves toward an explosive climax.

Interlaced with native American myths and legends that serve as an illuminating counterpoint to the action of the story, Buffalo Nickel is an all-American novel of love, money, and race - and an epic work of historical imagination.


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