The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge

The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge

by Michael Punke


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A startling novel, all the more compelling because its tale of unimaginable human endurance is true, The Revenant unfolds the toll of envy and betrayal as well as the powers of obsession and vengeance in the battle of fur trapper Hugh Glass, first for his life and then for justice. It is 1823, two decades after the famous expedition of Lewis and Clark into the American wilderness, when thirty-six-year-old Hugh Glass joins the Rocky Mountain Fur Company in a speculative venture that takes him and ten other men up the Missouri River into perilous, unexplored territory. Not least among the dangers that await the trapping party is a natural killer, the grizzly bear, as Glass disastrously discovers. Attacked and savagely mauled—his scalp nearly torn off, his back deeply lacerated, his throat clawed open—Glass is lying unconscious when his fellow trappers find him. Against all odds, he is still drawing breath three days later. Anxious to proceed unencumbered by the portage of Glass's mortally wounded body, the captain of the expedition pays two volunteers—John Fitzgerald, a mercenary, and young Jim Bridger (the future legendary mountain man)—to stay behind and bury Glass when his time comes. Fitzgerald soon loses patience and leaves, taking Glass's rifle. Horrified by Fitzgerald's thievery but more terrified of being left behind with a dying man, Bridger also leaves, with Glass's knife. Deserted and defenseless, the profoundly angry Glass vows his own survival. Miraculously trekking his way through two thousand miles of uncharted wilderness, Glass indeed becomes a revenant—a man who has returned vengefully from death to balance the scales of justice. His quest willleave readers breathless.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250066626
Publisher: Picador
Publication date: 01/06/2015
Pages: 272
Sales rank: 807,913
Product dimensions: 5.60(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Michael Punke serves as the U.S. Ambassador to the World Trade Organization in Geneva, Switzerland. He has also served on the White House National Security Council staff and on Capitol Hill. He was formerly the history correspondent for Montana Quarterly, and an adjunct professor at the University of Montana. He is the author ofFire and Brimstone: The North Butte Mine Disaster of 1917, and Last Stand: George Bird Grinnell, the Battle to Save the Buffalo, and the Birth of the New West. His family home is in Montana.

Read an Excerpt


THEY WERE ABANDONING HIM. The wounded man knew it when he looked at the boy, who looked down, then away, unwilling to hold his gaze.

       For days, the boy had argued with the man in the wolf-skin hat. Has it really been days? The

wounded man had battled his fever and pain, never certain whether conversations he heard were real,

or merely by-products of the delirious wanderings in his mind.

       He looked up at the soaring rock formation above the clearing. A lone, twisted pine had managed

somehow to grow from the sheer face of the stone. He had stared at it many times, yet it had never

appeared to him as it did at that moment, when its perpendicular lines seemed clearly to form a

cross. He accepted for the first time that he would die there in that clearing by the spring.

       The wounded man felt an odd detachment from the scene in which he played the central role. He

wondered briefly what he would do in their position. If they stayed and the war party came up the

creek, all of them would die. Would I die for them . . . if they were certain to die anyway?

       “You sure they’re coming up the creek?” The boy’s voice cracked as

he said it. He could effect a tenor most of the time, but his tone still

broke at moments he could not control.

       The man in the wolf skin stooped hurriedly by the small meat rack near the fire, stuffing strips of

partially dried venison into his parfleche. “You want to stay and find out?”

       The wounded man tried to speak. He felt again the piercing pain in his throat. Sound came forth,

but he could not shape it into the one word he sought to articulate.

       The man in the wolf skin ignored the sound as he continued to gather his few belongings, but the

boy turned. “He’s trying to say some- thing.”

       The boy dropped on one knee next to the wounded man. Unable to speak, the man raised his working

arm and pointed.

       “He wants his rifle,” said the boy. “He wants us to set him up with his rifle.”

       The man in the wolf skin covered the ground between them in quick, measured steps. He kicked the boy hard, square in the back. “Move, goddamn you!”

       He strode quickly from the boy to the wounded man, who lay next to the meager pile of his

possessions: a possibles bag, a knife in a beaded scabbard, a hatchet, a rifle, and a powder horn.

As the wounded man watched helplessly, the man in the wolf skin stooped to pick up the pos- sibles

bag. He dug inside for the flint and steel, dropping them into the pocket on the front of his

leather tunic. He grabbed the powder horn and slung it over his shoulder. The hatchet he tucked

under his broad leather belt.

       “What’re you doing?” asked the boy.

       The man stooped again, picked up the knife, and tossed it to the boy.

       “Take that.” The boy caught it, staring in horror at the scabbard in his hand. Only the rifle

remained. The man in the wolf skin picked it up, checking quickly to ensure it was charged. “Sorry,

old Glass. You ain’t got much more use for any of this.”

       The boy appeared stunned. “We can’t leave him without his kit.”

The man in the wolf skin looked up briefly, then disappeared into the woods.

       The wounded man stared up at the boy, who stood there for a long moment with the knife—his knife. Finally, the boy raised his eyes. At first it appeared that he might say something. Instead, he

spun around and fled into the pines.

       The wounded man stared at the gap in the trees where they had disappeared. His rage was complete, consuming him as fire envelops the needles of a pine. He wanted nothing in the world except to place his hands around their necks and choke the life from them.

       Instinctively he started to yell out, forgetting again that his throat produced no words, only

pain. He raised himself on his left elbow. He could bend his right arm slightly, but it would

support no weight. The movement sent agonizing bolts through his neck and back. He felt the strain

of his skin against the crude sutures. He looked down at his leg, where the bloody remnants of an

old shirt were tightly wrapped. He could not flex his thigh to make the leg work.

       Marshaling his strength, he rolled heavily to his stomach. He felt the snap of a suture breaking

and the warm wetness of new blood on his back. The pain diluted to nothing against the tide of his


       Hugh Glass began to crawl.




AUGUST 21, 1823

“MY KEELBOAT FROM ST. LOUIS is due here any day, Monsieur Ashley.” The portly Frenchman explained it again in his patient but insistent tone. “I’ll gladly sell the Rocky Mountain Fur Company the

entire contents of the boat—but I can’t sell you what I don’t have.”

       William H. Ashley slammed his tin cup on the crude slats of the table. The carefully groomed gray

of his beard did not conceal the tight clench of his jaw. For its part, the clenched jaw seemed

unlikely to con- tain another outburst, as Ashley found himself confronting again the one thing he

despised above all else—waiting.

       The Frenchman, with the unlikely name of Kiowa Brazeau, watched Ashley with growing trepidation. Ashley’s presence at Kiowa’s remote trading post presented a rare opportunity, and Kiowa knew that the successful management of this relationship could lay a permanent foundation for his venture. Ashley was a prominent man in St. Louis business and politics, a man with both the vision to bring commerce to the West and the money to make it happen. “Other people’s money,” as Ashley had called it. Skittish money. Nervous money. Money that would flee easily from one speculative venture to the next.

       Kiowa squinted behind his thick spectacles, and though his vision was not sharp, he had a keen eye for reading people. “If you will indulge me, Monsieur Ashley, perhaps I can offer one consolation while we await my boat.”

       Ashley offered no affirmative acknowledgment, but neither did he renew his tirade.

       “I need to requisition more provisions from St. Louis,” said Kiowa. “I’ll send a courier downstream tomorrow by canoe. He can carry a dispatch from you to your syndicate. You can reassure them before rumors about Colonel Leavenworth’s debacle take root.”

       Ashley sighed deeply and took a long sip of the sour ale, resigned, through lack of alternative, to

endure this latest delay. Like it or not, the Frenchman’s advice was sound. He needed to reassure

his investors before news of the battle ran unchecked through the streets of St. Louis.

       Kiowa sensed his opening and moved quickly to keep Ashley on a productive course. The Frenchman produced a quill, ink, and parchment, arranging them in front of Ashley and refilling the tin cup with ale. “I’ll leave you to your work, monsieur,” he said, happy for the opportunity to retreat.

By the dim light of a tallow candle, Ashley wrote deep into the night:

       Fort Brazeau,

       On the Missouri

       August 21, 1823


       James D. Pickens, Esquire

       Pickens and Sons

       St. Louis

Dear Mr. Pickens,

       It is my unfortunate responsibility to inform you of the events of the past two weeks. By their nature  these events must alter— though not deter—our venture on the Upper Missouri.

       As you probably know by now, the men of the Rocky Mountain Fur Company were attacked by the Arikara after trading in good faith for sixty horses. The Arikara attacked without provocation, killing 16 of our men, wounding a dozen, & stealing back the horses they had feigned to sell to us the day before.

       In face of this attack, I was forced to retreat downstream, while at the same time requesting the aid of Colonel Leavenworth & the US Army in responding to this clear affront to the sovereign right of US citizens to traverse the Missouri unimpeded. I also requested the support of our own men, who joined me (led by Capt. Andrew Henry) at great peril, from their position at Fort Union.

       By August 9th, we confronted the Arikara with a combined force of 700 men, including 200 of Leavenworth’s regulars (with two howitzers) and forty men of the RMF Co. We also found  allies (albeit temporary) in 400 Sioux warriors, whose enmity for the Arikara stems from historical grudge, the origin of which I do not know.

       Suffice it to say that our assembled forces were  more  than ample to carry the field, punish the Arikara for their treachery, & reopen the Missouri for our venture. That such results did not occur we owe to the unsteady timber of Colonel Leavenworth.

       The details of the inglorious encounter can await my return to St. Louis, but suffice it to say

that the Colonel’s repeated reluctance to engage in an inferior foe allowed the entire Arikara

tribe to slip our grasp, the result being the effective  closure of the Missouri between Fort

Brazeau & the Mandan villages. Somewhere between here and there are 900 Arikara warriors, newly entrenched, no doubt, & with new motive to foil all attempts up the Missouri.

       Colonel Leavenworth has returned to garrison at Fort Atkinson, where he no doubt will pass the winter  in front of a warm hearth, carefully mulling  his options. I do not intend to wait for him. Our venture,  as you know,  can ill-afford  the loss of eight months.


       Ashley stopped to read his text, unhappy with its dour tone. The letter reflected his anger, but

did not convey his predominant emotion—a bedrock optimism, an unwavering faith in his own ability to succeed. God had placed him in a garden of infinite bounty, a Land of Goshen in which any man could

prosper if only he had the courage and the fortitude to try. Ashley’s  weaknesses, which he

confessed forthrightly, were simply barriers to be overcome by some creative combination of his

strengths. Ashley expected setbacks, but he would not tolerate failure.


       We must turn this misfortune to our benefit,  press on while  our competitors take pause. With the Missouri effectively closed, I have decided to send two groups West by alternate route. Captain Henry I have already dispatched up the Grand River. He will ascend the Grand  as far as possible and make  his way back to Fort Union. Jedidiah Smith will lead a second troop up the Platte, his target the waters of the Great Basin.

        You no doubt share my intense frustration at our delay. We must now move boldly to recapture lost time. I have instructed Henry and Smith that they shall not return to St. Louis with their harvest in the Spring. Rather, we shall go to them—rendezvous in the field to exchange their furs for fresh supplies. We can save four months this way, & repay at least some portion of our debt to the clock. Meanwhile, I propose a new fur troop be raised in St. Louis & dispatched in the Spring, led by me personally.


       The remnants of the candle sputtered and spit foul black smoke. Ashley looked up, suddenly aware of the hour, of his deep fatigue. He dipped the quill and returned to his correspondence, writing

firmly and quickly now as he drew his report to its conclusion:


       I urge you to communicate to our syndicate—in strongest possible terms—my complete confidence in the inevitable success of our endeavor. A great bounty has been laid by Providence before us, & we must not fail to summon the courage to claim our rightful share.

        Your Very Humble Servant,

        William H. Ashley

       Two days later, August 16, 1823, Kiowa Brazeau’s keelboat arrived from St. Louis. William Ashley provisioned his men and sent them west on the same day. The first rendezvous was set for the summer of 1824, the location to be communicated through couriers.

       Without understanding fully the significance of his decisions, William H. Ashley had invented the system that would define the era.

Table of Contents


Title Page,
Copyright Notice,
September 1, 1823,
Part One,
1. August 21, 1823,
2. August 23, 1823,
3. August 24, 1823,
4. August 28, 1823,
5. August 30, 1823,
6. August 31, 1823,
7. September 2, 1823—Morning,
8. September 2, 1823—Afternoon,
9. September 8, 1823,
10. September 15, 1823,
11. September 16, 1823,
12. September 17, 1823,
13. October 5, 1823,
14. October 6, 1823,
15. October 9, 1823,
Part Two,
16. November 29, 1823,
17. December 5, 1823,
18. December 6, 1823,
19. December 8, 1823,
20. December 15, 1823,
21. December 31, 1823,
22. February 27, 1824,
23. March 6, 1824,
24. March 7, 1824,
25. March 28, 1824,
26. April 14, 1824,
27. April 28, 1824,
28. May 7, 1824,
Historical Note,
Key Sources,
Also by Michael Punke,
About the Author,

Customer Reviews

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The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 30 reviews.
brf1948 More than 1 year ago
I received this book, an Advanced Readers copy and a Goodreads Giveaway, from Picador USA.  Thank you for allowing me the privilege of reading this excellent book.  I am already very impressed with both story and characters.  I found this novel one you cannot put down. I have a vague recollection of hearing of the trials and tribulations of Mr. Glass in the far away long ago, but this book is not something I will forget.  Excellently written, the beauty of the country shines through, as does the joy and hardships of living and traveling in the 1820's frontier of the Missouri River basin. The character of Hugh Glass is obvious, as is the humanity lacking in the bad guys.  And I felt the ending very appropriate.  Give this a read, please.  You will not be disappointed.  It is a book I will add to my keepers, to read again.  And I will see the movie, though I don't often bother when the book is this good. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As stories of revenge go, they are seldom as fulfilling as one might hope. Still, there are enough points of entertaining prose to merit its full read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very interesting book from start to finish, I can't wait to see how the movie compares.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Or I should probably say a dull story with a disappointing ending. This book was an "easy read" probably due to the lack of character development and scenario descriptions. The author needed to spend more time expanding on the motivations which drove the characters.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is the same story as Man in the Wilderness starring Richard Harris. There are also many other books and stories about this. There is absolutely nothing original about this book.
AJae More than 1 year ago
This story of revenge is one of the most engaging I've ever read. The subject is left to die a horrifying death and not only manages to survive (thanks to a youngster who is mistaken for doing the evil)but travels downriver to resupply and come back in the middle of a Midwestern winter to extract vengeance. I won't give away the story or ending but will say that the end is a tad surprising and satisfying.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
At first I did not think that the book would be able to hold my interest. After the first chapter, it captured my undivded attention. I finished the book within a matter of days. It sparked my adventerous side of me and placed me back into the mindset when I was boy growing up always wanting to play in the woods. It is a definite read for someone who has an adventerous side and or in the complexities of western exploration in the early 1800s. As far as keeping the details enticing, the climax's execution was unexpected. The ending will leave you wanting more, as well as, leaving you content.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Keep in mind, this is historical fiction - good book, thinking it will tie in nicely with movie
new-hampshire-reader More than 1 year ago
I have never read a book of this genre. But when I read the review, the story line intrigued. Without saying too much about the story, it is based on true fact. Main character Hugh Glass did really exist and he was mauled by a bear and left to die. "Revenant" - the definition is someone who returns from the dead. The story is very well written. Thoroughly enjoyable. And a grat read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved it. If more books were like this I would read more. I feel like most books are written with women in mind, but this book wasn't so I really appreciated that.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Not the type of book I usually read but it was a good easy read...glad I bought it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Having seen the movie on the big screen, can't wait to read the book that inspired the studios to adaptation. Although the movie moved fast and the background and characters seem to bring a sense of realism, the book will give you a complete sense of the story what the author intends to say. A good read?!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Fast-paced and gritty.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I thoroughly enjoyed this book which I read after seeing the movie . The movie barely scratched the surface of the adventures of Hugh Glass' life. Another lesson to never judge a book by its movie & I really liked the movie!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book greatly
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Fascinating story
Bahnzai More than 1 year ago
While I found Michal Punke's Revenant entertaining. I was very disappointed in the lack of development for characters as well the intricasies of the story line. I would have loved to hear more of the back story of the wild and varied crew members that traveled up stream with Glass.  Life in the forts and trading posts could easily have been expanded upon.  But my biggest disappointment was with the story's denouement that I found very anti-climatic and hurried
Anonymous 10 months ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was awesome to read and I really enjojyed knowing what it was like to live in the eighteen hundreds. To be honest though the movie sucked compared to the book.
Diane_K More than 1 year ago
Michael Punke did an awesome job of writing fictional history woven around the lives of actual historical figures. He describes the obstacles the early fur traders had to overcome all the way down to the harsh winters. Revenant: A person who has supposedly returned from the dead and that is what Hugh Glass is after being mauled by a Grizzly and left for dead. He crawls across part of the country till he slowly heals. Revenge consumes his heart. The Revenant is Hugh's story. It also a story of the people that come across his path. Some are fictional and many including Hugh himself are real. Michael Punke did an awesome job weaving a captivating story. The reader feels Hugh's pain and gets involved with his struggle. I recommend this book to anyone who likes history whether fictional or non-fictional. I look forward to reading more of Michael Punke's books and can't wait for this one to come out in a movie.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Man did I fly through this book! I could hardly put the darn thing down! I have talked to some people and read other reviews of this title and the reviews are strangely mixed. The oddest I felt were comments saying that the book was "boring" or "slow". ??? I don't know if it was just me but this book was the exact opposite of that. Something was always happening. When there was a lull in the action, like any good western, you could feel the story building to another climax again. All said, if you love western books, movies, TV, etc., this is for you.
Twink More than 1 year ago
Michael Punke's 2002 novel, The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge, isn't one that I would have noticed or picked up were it not for the 2015 award winning film of the same name. And that would have been a shame, as it's a he** of a good read. What surprised me even more is that it's based on factual historical events and persons. (At the end of the book, I went online to suss out the real story - absolutely fascinating reading) 1823 America. Hugh Glass is one of the best trackers and frontiersmen around, working for The Rocky Mountain Fur Company. When he is severely mauled by a bear, his compatriots carry him as far as they can in the winter mountains. Company Commander Captain Henry pays two men - Fitzgerald and Bridger - to stay with Glass until he dies, then bury him properly. But Fitzgerald has different ideas..... he decides that staying with Glass isn't worth his while. He forces young Bridger to leave Glass to die on his own and the two take off. But not before they steal Glass's gun and knife, leaving him alone and exposed to the elements. And here's where the revenge part comes into play......Glass is as tough as nails and bent on revenge. And he wants his gun back. What follows is a nail biting fight for his life as Glass begins crawling towards the fort two hundred miles away where Fitzgerald and Bridger are to meet up with the rest of the company. Punke has brought in many factual events and people - the conflicts between the native tribes and the white men who have come to trap and settle their land. The wilderness and the men living in it are brilliantly described, but it is Hugh Glass who captures the reader. The injustice done to him and his single minded desire to seek revenge on Fitzgerald will have the reader on the edge of their seat, urging him to take one more breath, one more step forward until..... As I said not my usual fare, but I absolutely loved it. Punke is an absolutely wonderful writer. Read an excerpt of The Revenant.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book. The only problem was the author really dropped the ball with the ending. If all of it were true I could understand, but since it wasn't, a much better climax would of really made this 5 star reading.
Moon-Man More than 1 year ago
Very good book. It was hard to put down. A great story of survival and revenge and a great story to tell. A great recollection of the Rocky Mountain Fur Company in Missouri, the way the land was, and the Indians who occupied the land along with us. I hope the movie is as good as the book. It was an excellent read and I highly recommend it!