The experienced wranglers are fired up to drive their herd across a thousand miles of Siberian wilderness, but are startled to find a band of Cossacks—Russia's elite horsemen and warriors—waiting to act as an unwanted escort. Very quickly, the culture clash between American six-shooters and Russian sabers detonates the action. The sequence in which the cattle are herded off the ship to the shore is one of the greatest of all novel openings.
Against the sweeping majesty of a cruel winter in the Russian wilderness, two men, Shad the leader of the Montana cowboys, and Rostov the Cossack commander come into tight focus. Respect and trust are forged in the molten fire of nature fueled by a ruthless Apache-like Tartar army and powerful men whose only motive is profit. The cowboy code and the Cossack credo measure men differently, but honor and courage rises when the Wild West rides the plains of the Russian Tsars.
The words of Clair Huffaker's daughter, Samantha Kirkeby, perhaps explain the emotional impact of The Cowboy and the Cossack best: “As I stumbled into middle age, my fathers ability to touch people was opened up to me in a dramatic and unexpected way. I found myself reading reviews from readers all over the world. Families in Russia who considered their page worn copy of The Cowboy and the Cossack a family treasure. A wife who read the book aloud to her husband when he was ill and bedridden. An American soldier who brought me to tears when I read how The Cowboy and the Cossack was his favorite novel, and the very first thing he put into his backpack each time he left for duty. For over a decade, he carried the ragged paperback copy of The Cowboy and the Cossack he bought in a used book store to dozens of countries, reading and rereading it, passing it among his fellow soldiers to give them strength and inspiration, until the pages were frayed and worn.”
With Huffaker's ability to get his novels not only bought by Hollywood, but to also get them produced and released, it is a mystery why The Cowboy and the Cossack (arguably his best and most popular novel) has never made it to the screen. At one time producer Lance Hool held the movie rights. He famously attempted to get the film made with Clint Eastwood and Charles Bronson in the title roles, which would have been epic casting. Later, Albert R. Broccoli, the co-producer of the James Bond films, acquired the rights, but his efforts also stalled in development hell.
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CONTRIBUTOR: PAUL BISHOP