Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Peter Bowen: Wolf, No Wolf

“You have to take this. You’ll really like it,” Sparkle insisted as I inwardly groaned, thinking of the TWO stacks of unread-must-reads by the side of my bed, and my already bulging suitcases.

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“I know it doesn’t sound like something you’ll like,” she went on, slightly frustrated with me, with herself, “but once you start reading, you’ll get into it.”

Not exactly a ringing endorsement, but good enough for me. I always KNOW what I think she will love, and she has done me many a favor in return, introducing me to authors and series worth reading.

“It’s about Montana. The main character is mixed Indian and French and some other things, a grandfather, and it all takes place in a small town in Montana . . . ” she sort of fizzles out. “I’m really not doing a very good job of making this interesting.”

And she sighs in frustration.

So, about a month later, just because I love my sister, I pick the book up and start reading while waiting for my husband to get home for dinner. As it turns out, he is very very late – and I am very very glad. I don’t want to stop reading!

When you first jump into Wolf, No Wolf by Peter Bowen, it takes you a minute to adjust your ear to the way they talk. These aren’t people most of us have met before. Gabriel DuPre´ is m´etis, a mixed blood. His ancestors are French who came early to the great continent that is now the US, Canada and Mexico, and they trapped and hunted, married native American wives, and developed a culture all their own. His language pattern is similar to that of the Cajun in Louisiana.

He is a cattle brand inspector in this small Montana town. His children are grown, he has so many grandchildren he can’t remember all their names. Every now and then, he pins on his deputy sherrif badge to solve a mystery in the small town of Toussaint, Montana.

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Here is how Wolf, No Wolf opens:

Du Pre´ fiddled in the Toussaint Bar. The place was packed. some of Madelaine’s relatives had come down from Canada to visit. It was fall and the bird hunters had come, to shoot partridges and grouse on the High Plains.

The bird hungers were pretty OK. The big game hunters were pigs, mostly. The bird hunters were outdoors people; they loved it and knew it, or wanted to. The big game hungers wanted to shoot at something big, often someone’s cows.

Bart had bought a couple thousand dollars’ worth of liquor and several kegs of beer and there was a lot of food people had brought. Everything was free.

Kids ran in and out. The older ones could have beers. Bart was tending bar. Old Booger Tom sat on one of the high stools, cane leaned up against the front of the bar.

“You do that pretty good for someone the booze damn near killed,” said Booger Tom. “I know folks won’t be in the same room with the stuff.”

“Find Jesus,” said Bart. “It’s not too late to save your life.”

He went down to the far end of the bar and took orders. Susan Klein, who owned the saloon, was washing glasses at a great pace.

One of Madelaine’s relatives was playing the accordion, another an electric guitar. They were very good.

Du Pre´ finished. He was wet with sweat. The place was hot and damp and smoky, so smoky it was hard to see across the room. The room wasn’t all that big, either.

Madelaine got up from her seat, her pretty face flushed from drinking the sweet pink wine she loved. She threw her arms around Du Pre´ and kissed him for a long time.

“Du Pre´,” she said, “you make me ver’ happy, you play those good songs.”

. . …

Someday this fine woman marry me, thought Du Pre´, soon as the damn Catholic church, it tell her OK, your missing husband is dead now so you can quit sinning, fornicating with DuPre´.

I’ve never hung out in a bar in Montana, fiddled, or had a girlfriend named Madeleine (!), but already I feel like I know these people and this life. Peter Bowen is the Donna Leon of Montana, introducing us to the kind of crimes that happen in those sleepy looking towns we drive past on the superhighways, glancing at, or stopping to fill our gas tanks.

DuPre´ is a good man, and, like many a good man, sometimes has to do a bad thing to protect those he is sworn to protect. Policing is not pretty business.

The first story has to do with the re-introduction of wolves back into the Montana highlands, something not at all popular with those who have been raising cattle there. The second book in this two-book collection has to do with serial killers, how they stay under the radar, and how very difficult it is to catch them.

In both books, it is as much about a new way of living and thinking as it is about solving the crime. DuPre´ consults often with his friend Benetsee, the local medicine man, who sees things we don’t see. One of the FBI Agents is Harvey Wallace, also more than half native American, whose real name is Harvey Weasel Fat. The books are about how men and women fight, the nature of male friendships and female friendships, and very much about the human condition wherever we may be.

Life is short. I can never live in all these places long enough to even scratch the surface of the flavor of each variety of life. But these books help, they give us glimpses into another way of thinking, another way of doing things, and stretches our little minds just a little so that we learn to think more flexibly.

So who is going to write the Kuwait detective series? Who will take us into the diwaniyyas seeking information, who will take us out on the shoowi to gather information against those delivering drugs to Kuwait, with whom will we camp in the desert, avoiding explosives left over from the Iraqi invasion? I think his name is Anwar al Kout (the light of Kuwait!) and his wife is Suhail (the Yemeni Star!) – somewhere out there is someone who can take us into Kuwait and bring it alive. Where are you?

(You were right, Sparkle. I loved it!)

September 16, 2007 - Posted by | Adventure, Books, Bureaucracy, Community, Crime, Cross Cultural, Family Issues, Fiction, Friends & Friendship, Generational, Kuwait, Leadership, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Music, Relationships, Social Issues, Spiritual

10 Comments »

  1. I agree with you on the usefulness of books…
    But to finish reading those books, do what I do…
    I read 3 books at once; it kills the boredom and it an interesting experience… just like watching TV shows

    Comment by Blue Dress | September 16, 2007 | Reply

  2. Kuwaiti detective series… naaaah I’m not feelin it. Oftentimes when I see what are supposed to be evil criminals on Kuwaiti TV shows they come out comical or cartoonish so I don’t know if it’s something that will seem better in writing.

    Comment by 1001 Kuwaiti Nights | September 16, 2007 | Reply

  3. Holy Smokes, Blue Dress, so you flip back and forth between books?

    1001 – I am guessing your talents lie in a different direction, with you very keen eye for social satire in the conversations of the Kuwaiti women! You are brilliant, and you have found your genre.

    but I believe there is a Kuwaiti who can do for Kuwait what Leon is doing for Venice, what Bowen is doing for rural Montana, what Burke is doing for New Iberia, Lousisiana, etc.

    Comment by intlxpatr | September 16, 2007 | Reply

  4. I knew you would love it. Du Pre is the Dave Robicheaux of Montana.
    Have you ever read Cara Black, mostly set in Paris? Just picked up a few, on recommendation from the person who turned me onto the Inspector Chen series (which you absolutly have to read). The days are cool, today it is drizzling, and I am stocked with books to curl up with for the winter. Bliss.
    Keep up encouraging someone to take on the tales of Kuwait…

    Comment by SparklePlenty | September 16, 2007 | Reply

  5. How funny you would mention Cara Black, Sparkle! I have one – Murder in the Marais, I think – waiting by my bedside! I am eager to jump in there, too, you know me and France! Thank you, thank you, as usual, sis, for the great recommendation.

    Comment by intlxpatr | September 17, 2007 | Reply

  6. YES muwahahahahaha!

    Comment by Blue Dress | September 17, 2007 | Reply

  7. PS to Sparkle – I see the Murder in the Marais book is second from the top, just under the new Khalid Husseini book!

    BD – I bet you multi-task most of your life!

    Comment by intlxpatr | September 17, 2007 | Reply

  8. […] first book I read, Wolf, No Wolf had to do with environmentalists putting wolves back into the mountains where once they had […]

    Pingback by Bowen: Cruzatte and Maria « Here There and Everywhere | January 22, 2008 | Reply

  9. Oh my gosh, I am a Gabriel Dupre junkie. I have all of the Montana Mysteries. I am eagerly awaiting another, I keep checking online to see if Bowen has written another.
    The dialect in the book is much like my father’s-French Canadian. The characters are great-reminds me of the characters in the TV series NOrthern Exposure…another favorite.

    Comment by kathryn | March 5, 2008 | Reply

  10. Morning, Kathryn! I keep ordering them, two at a time – I don’t want to run out of them too soon! My husband also loved Northern Exposure, and now we both like Men in Trees, too. They all have a kind of quirkiness in common, don’t they?

    Comment by intlxpatr | March 6, 2008 | Reply


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