Austin American-Statesman Review

Austinites collaborate in 'Custer'

Howard Waldrop is one of those modern-day rarities, a writer who has eked out a living writing mostly short fiction. Born and raised in Austin, Waldrop currently lives in Fort Worth and is known for his quirky stories like "Night of the Cooters," a tale about what happened when those pesky Martians H.G. Wells wrote about land in Texas. In addition to winning awards, Waldrop has also gained a reputation as a writer's writer. And many of his colleagues have jumped at the chance to work with him. Thus was born Custer's Last Jump and Other Collaborations.

Created for the most part with various writers who are either living in Austin — Bruce Sterling, Steve Utley — or have lived in Austin at one time or another — Leigh Kennedy, A.A. Jackson IV — this collection consists primarily of fictions cobbled together when the aforementioned writers were still fairly wet behind the ears. The sole exception is "One Horse Town," written with Kennedy. A fantasy that flows back and forth through time and mixes elements of the Trojan War, the historical Greece of Homer's youth and an archaeological dig, this somber tale about the nature of time and history culminates in an image that will remain seared in the reader's mind.

But even the older stories, most dating back to the '70s, are well-written and highly entertaining. Longtime friend and frequent collaborator Utley pitches in with three selections including the title piece, an alternative sci-fi tale in which Crazy Horse and his warriors fight the cavalry in airplanes. "A Voice and A Bitter Weeping," co-written with Buddy Saunders, grew into the cult novel The Texas-Israeli War. Bruce Sterling collaborates to come up with a tale about the search for a lost prince.

The addition of various voices to Waldrop's already unique baritone results in a marvelous cacophony of nouns, verbs and plot lines that work quite harmoniously.

— Dorman T. Shindler, Austin American-Statesman, Sunday, June 1, 2003


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