Uh-oh, it looks like your Internet Explorer is out of date.

For a better shopping experience, please upgrade now.

The Englishman's Boy

The Englishman's Boy

3.8 6
by Guy Vanderhaeghe

See All Formats & Editions

Originally published in 1996, The Englishman’s Boy is the first in a Guy Vanderhaeghe trilogy that includes the nationally best-selling novel The Last Crossing, with the third book due to be published next year. By far his most successful book in his native Canada, The Englishman’s Boy expertly depicts an American West where greed and


Originally published in 1996, The Englishman’s Boy is the first in a Guy Vanderhaeghe trilogy that includes the nationally best-selling novel The Last Crossing, with the third book due to be published next year. By far his most successful book in his native Canada, The Englishman’s Boy expertly depicts an American West where greed and deception act side by side with honor and strength. In 1920s Hollywood, elusive movie studio owner Damon Ira Chance is obsessed with making pictures rooted in American history and experience, with the poetry of fact. So when he discovers that one of the most popular bit players in the Westerns is a real-life tin god—the last buffalo of the old West, Shorty McAdoo—he commissions an ambitious young screenwriter named Harry Vincent to hunt Shorty down and retell his story. Richly textured and evocative, this is an unforgettable story about power, greed, and the pull of dreams. At once an intensely original character study and a hugely entertaining page-turner, The Englishman’s Boy is a gritty, resonant novel of timeless beauty and insight.

Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
An ambitious novel, set along the US-Canadian border and in Hollywood, that won for its author (Homesick, 1990, etc.) Canada's prestigious Governor General's Award.

The story consists of parallel narratives, the first taking place in 1873 when a band of "wolfers" (wolf-hunters) camped in the northern Montana Territory lose their horses to a furtive Indian raiding party. A determined posse pursues the thieves northward into Saskatchewan, where a terrible vengeance is exacted. Among those avengers are the mysterious title character, a stoical drifter who will become both the victim and nemesis of the men with whom he has cast his lot, and Shorty McAdoo, a Scotsman who will forever after be burdened by his failure to act as the "civilized man" he believed he was. The second narrative, set in 1923, recounts in his own words the ordeal undergone by Harry Vincent, a crippled journalist employed by playboy moviemaker Damon Ira Chance, a self-described "visionary" who longs to film an "epic western" incarnating his conviction that "the spirit of the age would express itself in an endless train of images." Harry seeks out Shorty McAdoo's story, not realizing that Chance will betray his ostensible vision, and that he will also unknowingly betray the aged, guilt-ridden McAdoo. The two stories intersect in a melodramatic climax that, unfortunately, drains the novel of much of the integrity given it by Vanderhaeghe's sharply imagined confrontation scenes and salty dialogue. The novel has a lot on its mind, and few readers will leave it unfinished, but there's a paradoxical problem at its core: As gripping as the manhunt story is, its characters remain frustratingly opaque (even the haunting figure of the Englishman's boy only awkwardly inhabits the narrative); and, despite Vanderhaeghe's persuasive characterization of the appealing Harry, the story he's part of feels inchoate and derivative.

Two good half-novels here, but they don't come together as a whole.

From the Publisher
“It is a wonder and a glory – written by a man who has plundered the language for all its treasures. The story of the Englishman’s boy and his journey into hell and back is absolutely riveting.”
–Timothy Findley

The Englishman’s Boy is one of the finest historical novels ever written by a Canadian, an impossible-to-put-down adventure story that also packs some keen insights into the way civilization works.…”

“A vital and important novel with a bitterly coruscating message at its heart. Read it now.”
Edmonton Journal

“A great accomplishment.”
–Richard Ford

“A stunning performance. Highly enjoyable. I couldn’t put it down.”
–Mordecai Richler

“The canvas is broad, the writing is vivid, and the two story-lines are deftly interwoven to contrast cinematic ‘truth’ with history as it happened. An intense and original piece of writing.”
The Bookseller (U.K.)

“A richly textured epic that passes with flying colors every test that could be applied for good storytelling.”
–Saskatoon StarPhoenix

“Characters and landscapes are inscribed on the mind’s eye in language both startling and lustrous.”
Globe and Mail

“Vanderhaeghe succeeds at a daring act: he juggles style and stories with the skill of a master.…”
Financial Post

“There isn’t a dull moment.”
Toronto Sun

“A fine piece of storytelling, which, like all serious works of literature, as it tells its tale connects us to timeless human themes.”
Winnipeg Sun

“The Great Canadian Western.”
Canadian Forum

“Thematically, this is a big book, an important book, about history and truth, brutality and lies.”
Georgia Straight

“A compelling read.”
Halifax Daily News

“Vanderhaeghe shows himself to be as fine a stylist as there is writing today.”
Ottawa Citizen

Product Details

Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
Publication date:
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Sales rank:
File size:
3 MB

Read an Excerpt


Even from such a distance Fine Man could smell their camp, the fried-pig stink of white men. He took up a pinch of dirt, placed it under his tongue, and made a prayer. Keep me close, Mother Earth, hide me, Mother Earth. It was light as day, the moon's bright face a trader's steel mirror, the grey leaves of the sage and wolf willow shining silver, as if coated with hoarfrost. Under a full moon, it was dangerous to steal horses--even from foolish white men.

One of the wolfers rose from his blanket and stepped away from the fire. The one with the ugly hair, red like a fox's, he stood making his water and talking over his shoulder. A noisy man lacking in dignity. It must be a poor thing to be a wolf-poisoner, to be ugly, to eat pork, to hate silence. There was nothing to envy these people for, except their guns and horses.

The red-haired one rolled himself back up in his blanket and lay like a log beside the fire. "Say goodnight to Jesus," said one of the other men wrapped in blankets. They all laughed. More noise.

Fine Man felt Broken Horn's body relax beside him and knew Horn had been covering Red Hair with the "fukes," a sawed-off Hudson's Bay musket, the only gun they carried between them. Broken Horn was edgy. Fine Man sensed Horn no longer believed in the promises and the truth of his dream.

In his dream, there was heavy snow, biting cold. Many starving, shivering horses, coats white with frost, had come stumbling through the high drifts to crowd the entrance of Fine Man's lodge. There the grass of spring pushed up sweet green blades through the crust of the snow, tenderness piercing ice, and gave itself to strengthen the horses, even though it was the black months of winter. Fine Man read this as a power sign that somewhere there were horses wishing to belong to the Assiniboine. But Broken Horn did not trust Fine Man's sign any more, and Fine Man did not trust Horn with a gun in his hand.

Suddenly the white men's horses began to mill about, hopping in their hobbles like jack-rabbits. Powdery dust rose like mist, to hang swirling and shaking in the moonlight. Fine Man shifted his eyes to the fire. But none of the lumps under the greasy grey blankets raised a head, their ears were deaf. How did white men distinguish their corpses from those who had only gone to sleep?

The herd broke apart, horses turning and spinning, bumping one another like pans of ice in the grip of a swift current. A moment of complete confusion, rumps and heads bucking above the dust, then the strong current found a shape and stood alone, a big blue roan, broken hobbles dangling from its forelegs, teeth bared, ears laid back.

Lit by the moon, the roan was stained a faint blue, the colour of late-winter-afternoon shadows on crusted snow. Coat smooth as ice, chest and haunches hard as ice, eyes cold as ice, a Nez Perce horse from beyond the mountains which wore snow on their heads all the year round, a horse from behind the Backbone of the World.

When he saw him, Fine Man knew the promise of the dream was true and he rose from behind the juniper bush to show himself plain to the winter horse. Broken Horn's sharp intake of breath through the teeth was a warning, but Fine Man gave no indication he heard him, his ears were stopped to any sound except the singing inside him, the power chanting in him. He stood upright in the moonlight, upright in his Thunderbird moccasins with the beaded Bird green on each foot, upright in the breechclout his Sits-Beside-Him wife had cut from the striped Hudson's Bay blanket. He gazed down at his hands, at the skin of his muscled thighs, at his belly, and understood. White moonlight was his blizzard, a blizzard to blind the eyes of his enemies who lay frozen to the ground in the grip of his medicine-dream, drifted over by the heavy snow of sleep.

He edged toward the horse, addressing him in a soft voice, politely. Fifty yards to his left, the fire was rustling, hot embers cracking like nuts, spitting like fat. Behind him, Horn lifted himself to one knee, swiftly spiking three arrows in the ground near where his bow lay, and aimed the fukes at the sleeping body of a wolfer.

"Little Cousin," said Fine Man in a soothing voice, "Little Cousin, do not be afraid. Don't you recognize me? I am the man you dreamed, the man with the lodge of plenty. I am the man you led your brothers to." He stopped for a moment. "Take a good look at me. There is no harm in my hands," he murmured, displaying empty palms to the roan. Turning and pointing to Broken Horn, crouched with his musket levelled at the sleeping white man, he said, "That man there came with me to find you. Some of your brothers may choose to live with him--if they so decide. It is for them to choose." He stepped forward lightly, words rustling lightly. "Cousin, you are a beautiful being. I do not say this to flatter you. The white man rides you with steel spurs and a steel bit in your mouth. This is not how to sit upon a beautiful being--with cruelty." They were face to face now, he and the blue roan. He removed his left moccasin, the moccasin of the heart side. "Feel, Cousin, there is no harm upon my feet," he said, reaching up carefully to gently stroke the roan's nose with the moccasin. He pursed his lips and blew softly into the left nostril of the horse, who snorted Fine Man's breath back in surprise, shaking his head from side to side.

"Now you know there is no harm in my heart. Now you know that I am the good man who you dreamed. Tell your brothers," Fine Man coaxed.

Broken Horn was signalling him desperately to come now, leave this place, clear out, but Fine Man was making his way carefully and deliberately from horse to horse, showing each his knife before severing the hobbles. When he finished, he returned to the blue roan, stood at its withers, took a fistful of mane and walked it away, his legs matching its forelegs stride for stride. Hesitantly, the other horses followed the man and the blue roan, nineteen horses strung out in a winding procession through buck-brush and sage, black shadows stark on the ground, edges sharp as a knife-cut.

Without haste, they picked their way across the river bottom and to the feet of steep, eroded hills which, washed in the cold light of the moon, became reflections of moon's own face, old and worn and pocked and bright. Fine Man led the blue horse up the first hump of hill, the others filing behind, hooves daintily ticking on loose stones, gravel cascading loose and running with a dry sigh down the slope. He paused, his hands resting on the blue roan's withers; the string of horses paused too. Below, Fine Man could see an elbow of the Teton River poking through the cottonwoods and the tongues of the white man's fire darting, licking the dark. A sudden breeze sprang up and fanned his face, luffing the mane of the blue horse, stroking and ruffling the surface of the water so it flashed and winked in the moonlight like the scales of a leaping fish.

He and the blue horse began their descent then, down into the belly of a narrow coulee twisting through the scarred and crumbling hills. The other horses trickled down the slope after them, filling the coulee as water fills the bed of a river. One by one they dropped from sight, tails switching, heads bobbing, ghostly gleaming horses running back into the earth like shining, strengthening water.

The fire died amid the charred sticks, the moon grew pale. The stream of horses flowed north to Canada.


I typed four names. Damon Ira Chance. Denis Fitzsimmons. Rachel Gold. Shorty McAdoo. I sat and stared at these names for some minutes, then I typed a fifth, my own. Harry Vincent.

I did not know how to continue. It's true that once I was a writer of a sort, but for thirty years I've written nothing longer than a grocery list, a letter. I went to the window. From there I could see the South Saskatchewan River, the frozen jigsaw pieces bumping sluggishly downstream, the cold, black water steaming between them. A month ago, when the ice still held, a stranger to this city would have had no idea which way the river ran. But now the movement of the knotted ice, of the swirling debris, makes it plain.

So begin, I told myself.

History is calling it a day. Roman legionaries tramp the street accompanied by Joseph and Mary, while a hired nurse in cap and uniform totes the Baby Jesus. Ladies-in-waiting from the court of the Virgin Queen trail the Holy Family, tits cinched flat under Elizabethan bodices sheer as the face of a cliff. A flock of parrot-plumed Aztecs are hard on their heels. Last of all, three frostbitten veterans of Valley Forge drag flintlocks on the asphalt roadway.

This is nearly thirty years ago, 1923 to be exact, and I am a young man standing at a second-storey window in the script department of Best Chance Pictures watching extras drift by in a yellow light creeping towards dusk--shooting suspended for the day. I am waiting for a man by the name of Fitzsimmons, waiting anxiously because a visit from Fitzsimmons is not to be taken lightly. Returning from lunch today I found this terse message on my desk.

   Dear Mr. Vincent,

      Please be so kind as to wait upon Mr. Fitzsimmons at the

   close of office hours this day.

                                      Yours sincerely,

                                      Damon Ira Chance

The office cleared out two hours ago and there is still no sign of Fitzsimmons. Even though I suspect the possibility of a practical joke, I stay put. For one thing, the letterhead (reading "Office of the President and Chairman") appears genuine. I don't intend to jeopardize a seventy-five-dollar-a-week job, not with the expense of keeping my mother in the Mount of Olives Rest Home.

History having disappeared from sight, my gaze turns to the jumbled vista of the studio lot, twenty-five acres of offices, workshops, streets of every kind--French, Spanish, Russian, Chinese, Wild Western. What I can't see from my window, I know, having walked through it often enough.

All of this make-believe is held in quarantine by a ten-foot fence and a gate which trumpets in black iron scrollwork: Best Chance Pictures. When I first came to work here eighteen months ago the gate trumpeted Zenith Pictures, but then Damon Ira Chance bought it from Mr. Adilman and the name changed, along with a number of other things.

From the beginning, Damon Ira Chance was an enigma. Nobody knew anything about him. People assumed that the surname Chance had been adopted for the sake of the ringing phrase, Best Chance Pictures. If Samuel Goldwyn could steal a name for business reasons, what was stopping anybody else? Then one of the trade papers published a story identifying Damon Ira Chance as the son of Titus Chance. For over forty years Titus Chance's name had been mentioned in the same breath with the likes of Carnegie, Gould, Rockefeller, Morgan, and Mellon. Although not quite as rich as these plutocrats, his wealth was considerable, very considerable. During the Civil War the family textile mills had made a bundle supplying uniforms to the Federals, and when peace came, Titus Chance shrewdly reinvested war profits in oil, steel, railroads, banking. The old man survived well into the new century and at his death his money had passed to his only child, Damon Ira, an obscure figure, a middle-aged Henry James character who had spent most of his life living abroad in Europe. Unlike a Henry James character, however, Damon Ira Chance promptly took a large part of his inheritance and bought a movie company with it.

It is on this man's orders that I am waiting for Denis Fitzsimmons in my dog-kennel office. There's not much to amuse me here, a desk, a typewriter, a coffee can full of pencils, a three-shelf bookcase holding Dreiser, Crane, Norris, London, and back numbers of The Smart Set, which my friend Rachel Gold browbeat me into subscribing to because it is edited by her idol, H.L. Mencken.

Rachel has an office just a short way down the corridor, a much more magnificent office befitting a head writer. In it there is a long table for writing, a six-shelf bookcase, many ashtray stands, a cabinet with a broken lock holding bottles of bathtub gin, and a big sofa for thinking and napping on.

I tell myself five more minutes and then I'll leave. Five minutes pass and then another five. As it grows dark outside, I see myself in the windowpane, a tall, thin, gangly, big-nosed, big-eared young man nervously smoking and fidgeting with his wire-rimmed spectacles. A very ordinary, common young man whose only uncommon feature can't be detected in the glass at the moment. My limp.

I sit as minutes become hours, checking my watch, chain-smoking cigarettes. Then, sometime after ten, I hear a car pull up, followed by the creak of the stairs which lead up to the gallery that runs round the offices on the second floor, finally the tread of heavy feet outside my office door. Suddenly, Fitzsimmons is here, looming in the doorway without having bothered to knock. Six feet four, maybe two hundred and seventy pounds, he stands there breathing heavily through an open mouth, all bulging shoulders, barrel chest, tree-trunk legs threatening to burst the stitches on an expensively tailored double-breasted suit. Seen up close, the meaty florid face breaks down into a riverine system of tiny red veins and spidery tributaries, a knob of mashed nose, a large, froggish mouth spiked with the kind of tiny baby teeth that belong to a six-year-old.

He draws a couple of wheezy breaths and says, "I got held up. Business." Then he takes out a handkerchief and begins to mop his sweating face, his cranium of closely cropped hairs, orangey-red like the pelt of an orangutan. "Some fucking paradise, this California. Never had so many fucking colds in my life." He blows his nose into the handkerchief.

"Drink orange juice," I say. "It's supposed to be good for whatever ails you."

Fitzsimmons's eyes scan my office; he doesn't look at me. "If it isn't colds, it's the fucking clap. All these actresses got a dose of the clap. You telling me orange juice will cure the clap?"

I'm not about to tell this man anything.

"If it would fix the clap I'd ship a couple of boxcars back East. I got plenty of friends in New York could make use of it." He laughs, a strange laugh that grates and pops explosively, like gravel being ground in the jaws of an adamantine mill. He stops all at once, as if he has forgotten why he's amused. "Let's go," he says.

I follow him down the stairs, his bulk rolling like a storm cloud. We get into the waiting Hispano-Suiza and drive off. Aside from the sound of Fitzsimmons sucking his teeth, we wind through deserted streets in silence. Contrary to what you might expect, in the early twenties Hollywood was a ghost town after dark. For the original inhabitants, mostly retirees from the Midwest, a high old time might consist of a game of gin rummy, cranking your own ice-cream maker. The film colony was not much livelier. Most movies were filmed in natural light and that meant rising at dawn and shooting until dusk so as not to waste precious hours of sunshine. Early to bed and early to rise. Even as we pass down Hollywood Boulevard I can see that all the stools at a lunch counter are empty, a lonely waitress staring out the window at our big car as it rolls by.

When I finally summon the courage to ask Fitzsimmons where he is taking me, all he says is, "To see Mr. Chance."

This is a very big surprise. Nobody, or almost nobody, ever gets an audience with Chance. In the nine months since acquiring Zenith, he has earned the reputation of being a recluse, Photoplay dubbing him the Hermit of Hollywood. At his own studio he is merely a rumoured presence, rarely if ever seen. Now and then someone catches a glimpse of him standing at his office window on the third floor of the administration building, then the Venetian blinds snap shut and he is swallowed up from view. On very special occasions, some of the Hollywood aristocracy, a great star, or important director are summoned to his sanctum sanctorum for tea and cake, a decorous private audience. This is not the usual Hollywood practice; all the rest of the studio bosses are hands-on men, a presence on the lot. At Universal, Carl Laemmle is known as Uncle Carl, a chipper gnome who chats with property men, grips, electricians, stars, and directors alike. Louis B. Mayer is a man incapable of passing a pie without sticking a finger in it. He shows directors how to direct and gives acting lessons to great stars. Fall over and die like this. Roll your eyes like this when you drop. And lemme see the whites. Often he breaks down in tears, moved by the brilliance of his own performance. "The D.W. Griffith of actors" they call him at Metro, but only behind his back because Louis B. Mayer hits people. The illustrious list of people he has socked includes Erich von Stroheim and Charlie Chaplin.

But Mayer's is not Chance's style. He is aloof, patrician, resented. In nearly a year, the closest I have got to my boss is at his single recorded public appearance, the premiere of his first production. I had been the rewrite man for titles on The Orphan Maid and was vain enough to attend the picture's opening to see just how much of my work survived final cutting.

I was having a cigarette outside the theatre when the plum Hispano-Suiza I am now riding in drew to the curb and Chance and Fitzsimmons stepped out. Pandemonium broke out. Flashbulbs erupted. Reporters and cameramen began to jostle and shout, "Look this way, Mr. Damon!" "Hey, Hermit!" "Cheese please, Mr. Chance!" There he stood, a bewildered little man, weak eyes blinking, his thinning, wispy hair appearing to stand on end as the camera flashes throbbed epileptically on his starched shirt front and pale, stricken face. With reporters and cameramen nipping at his flanks, he looked like a penguin set upon by savage dogs, panicky, defenceless.

And then Fitzsimmons seized him by the elbow and started to thrust his way through newspapermen, to violently hack a path through the mob to the lobby. There were yelps and curses as the big Irishman shouldered people aside, trampled on their toes. I saw him slap a camera out of someone's hand, heard it smash on the pavement. In seconds, the two were safe inside. Meanwhile, the disgruntled press swore and milled about on the sidewalk. Who the fuck does that big ape think he is anyway, pushing me? I got a press card. Nobody but a cop pushes a press card around. I'll put the fix in on this picture. I'll get his picture a write-up he won't soon forget.

Damon Ira Chance did not forget. The Orphan Maid would be his last premiere for a very long time.

Nobody can quite figure the relationship between Chance and Fitzsimmons. It is an inexhaustible topic of speculation. Rachel Gold describes them as Jekyll and Hyde; fold their personalities together and you have Louis B. Mayer. It is her theory that Chance is the sentimental Louis B. dreaming pictures in his tower, while Fitzsimmons is the violent and ruthless Louis B. who hits and threatens people. Together, she claims, they might possibly make one successful movie producer.

She may be right. There's no doubt Fitz frightens people. He is the trouble-shooter, the hands-on man at Best Chance Pictures who relays orders from on high, hustles technicians, reads the riot act to stars and directors. He need only walk onto a set, expensive brogues creaking ominously, and a fearful hush descends. I'll never forget the day he took the director Bysshe Folkestone aside, one big arm laid across his shoulders like a cross, walking him from the eighteenth-century Devonshire cottage where Folkestone was shooting to a tract of the Sinai on a nearby set. We all stood watching from a distance. It was like a silent movie without subtitles and musical accompaniment. After a few words from Fitz, Bysshe started to wave his arms; his face, in turn, registering outrage, innocence, perplexity, while all around the two of them work continued, trucks dumping sand and workmen with shovels and rakes scrambling frantically to mould desert dunes to recreate ancient Egypt.

Bysshe kept talking and Fitz kept refusing to look at him. Fitzsimmons stood trickling sand from one enormous hand to another, back and forth, back and forth, eyes riveted on the stream sifting down from his fist. And Folkestone ran on too, unwilling to see that the big Irish egg-timer was measuring how long it took for him to cook. After three or four minutes, Folkestone realized Fitz wasn't listening and began to run down like a wind-up toy. His once emphatic and confident gestures became uncertain and tentative. In the end he shrugged half-heartedly; his arms fell to his sides; he fell silent.

Fitz began to dust the sand from his palms, still without looking at Bysshe, contemptuously, one hand slowly wiping the other. Folkestone stood waiting. The cleaning of the hands went on and on. Even at a distance, from where we stood, you could feel the cold cruelty of this pantomime. Nobody could have stood it for long. The meaning was perfectly clear.

Folkestone broke away and began to stumble out of the desert, sinking to his ankles in the sand. Lurching out of Egypt and into Devonshire he kept going, sand leaking out of his pant cuffs on to the paper turf. We all suddenly became enormously interested in our cameras, our clipboards, our costumes. Fleeing around the corner of the papier-mache stone cottage, Folkestone groped blindly for some support and brushed a painted canvas backdrop, shaking a slight disturbance into a mild English sky.

The next day a new director was at work.

Meet the Author

Guy Vanderhaege is one of Canada's most celebrated novelists. His novels combine prairie realism with a profound engagement with Canadian history. His other novels include Man Descending and The Last Crossing.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Post to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews

The Englishman's Boy 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
After reading this book, I can honestly say I was somewhat pleased with it's content. At first I begruged it because it was extremley confusing and I didn't think I would be able to handle it. But I was able to,and I'm glad. Overall...from Shorty McAdoo's story about Cypress Hills Massacre to the Englishman's Boy...both sides are interesting and fact filled.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was handed this book little more then a week ago. School begins, and a book is assigned to read. I was disappointed, but, soon became engrossed in the novel. The way it has two alternating, yet conjoined storylines is very unique to me. As was pointed out by my teacher, and if you have read the novel, the old west part of the book seems to be written as you would see it on a movie screen. Each scene carefully depicted, no detail left out in the cold. The story of a struggling young man, living in a 1920's Hollywood is strange and enticing, coming from someone who only remembers a time from the mid-eighties until now. It seems a whole different world, and probably was. Though I have not yet finished the novel, I am eagerly awaiting the chance I will get to write my thoughts about this book out in full detail. If you are a student, or adult, searching for a book based in Canada that is not dry, try this one.
Guest More than 1 year ago
An excellent novel that mirrors the efforts of Cormac McCarthy in his works The Crossing and All the Pretty Horses. Mr. V., like McCarthy paints a beautiful picture of the American/Canadian plains at the turn of the century. His portrait of the down and out is magnificent while juxtapositioning these characters with the feverish pace of Hollywood in the early 1900's. I pose a question to readers: Mr.V's story depicts the journey of a group of vigilante ranchers as they cross Montana territories in search of the horses stolen from them by a group of Natives. The action in which Native Indians sometimes stole back what they rightfully sold to whites...is it this crooked style of business that gave birth to the derogatory term 'Indian giver'? This puzzles me as I still to this day hear this term being used and feel quite offended by it. Looking for an answer....