Bad Wing Crow: Given name Sam Tucker, he’s a living legend for his marksmanship and the protagonist of a recently published novel by St. Croix Valley resident Jim Powell.
The story takes place mostly in Arkansas, beginning four years after the Civil War when Tucker is a boy. Then the storyline jumps to the 1880s, when his legend as a sharpshooter precedes him on the plains and deserts of south central America. With an African American cast as its hero, the novel does not shy away from racial tensions.
“It’s about the injustices done to him and his family and how he, his grandfather and a few friends deal with that later,” Powell said. “The horrors of slavery were far greater, I think, than most of us realize. The lynching and other forms of racial injustice that followed weren’t real pretty either. This is by no means a history book, but these issues are emphasized and woven throughout the story.”
In terms of genre, the book is historical fiction — with a heavy dose of western.
“The story does get “a little ‘western’ at times,” Powell said. “With a love of horses, I’ve always had a little bit of cowboy in me, and I make no apology for the story getting a little bit Louis L’Amour-ish.
“While I don’t pretend to be the writer Louis was, I’d like to think this has more depth and sensitivity than is typically found in his work.”
Powell reports that people have asked him how a white guy can write about black people. Some have even suggested he shouldn’t try.
“If you follow that logic to the extreme,” he said, “all I should be writing about is old bald-headed Minnesota white boys. … But my serious answer is: People are people and feelings are feelings.”
Although Powell is a nearly lifelong resident of the St. Croix Valley, he wrote most of the book during a seven-year stint in an isolated cabin in the Black Hills.
Publishing it became something of a bucket list item.
“Why does a 74-year-old guy suddenly think he ought to be a published author?” he wrote to the Messenger in a note about the book. “If you get that far along in life and still have things you’ve always wanted to do, you’d better get after it.”
The book was published in September by ElderBerry Publishing, an imprint founded by Country Messenger founder Edna Siniff, with cover art by May Township artist Edie Abnet. It is available at Valley Booksellers in Stillwater or online via Amazon. A signed copy can be obtained by emailing Powell at email@example.com.