Winner of the Western Writers of America Spur Award for best historical novel when first published over forty years ago, Moontrap is set in the Oregon Territory of 1850. In this handsome new trade paperback edition, it remains the haunting tale of conflicting interests—those of a dying breed, the mountain men, personified by cantankerous Web Webster, and the new settlers, personified by the English entrepreneur Thurston. Caught in the middle is Johnson Monday, who’s got a cabin on the outskirts of the settlement he shares with his Shoshone wife Mary. He’s been making a seven year, half-hearted attempt at farming. Web comes visiting, and a series of raucous, humorous and dangerous adventures lead to both a decision between the two worlds, and inevitable tragedy.
Don Berry’s portrayal of pioneer life remains rich, powerful, nuanced, and harrowing in its beauty. Web is a scene stealer, a twilight person “in love with the wonder at the variety of the world.” The jargon, humor and mountain-men-will-be-mountain-men hijinks are still amusing, if given too much space—space perhaps better filled with a more complete portrayal of Mary, a woman who reads the tension in her husband’s shoulders and knows he needs to hunt, but who exists mainly in this novel as an object of desire offering unconditional love and acceptance to a very flawed man.