The Overmountain Men (Tennessee Frontier)

Written by Cameron Judd
Review by Steve Lewis

Based in Nashville, Tennessee, Cumberland House is republishing Judd’s fictional history of the early days of that state in three handsome trade paperbacks. Others in the series are The Border Men [1778-1783] and The Canebrake Men [1785-1800], first published in mass market paperback by Bantam nearly ten years ago. Chronicled in this first book are the adventures of Joshua Colter, from the time he was boy of ten, creeping into a camp of Cherokees to avenge the deaths of his parents, to grown manhood, in a land on the verge of fighting for its independence from the British.

Most of this first volume also tells the story of the early settlers in Tennessee, coming across the mountains from Virginia and the Carolinas. Life was not easy for them, as the Cherokees generally were not pleased with the influx of the white intruders, who insisted on their way of life and rule of law, and then ignored both when it was to their favor and advantage. There are lots of deaths in the wars and skirmishes that follow, and rape, torture and mutilation, not to mention horrible accidents in the untamed wilderness. On page 244, young Colter wonders why “life sometimes handed out too many blows to bear.”

Judd is a natural storyteller, but his stories are often brutally dark and shuddersome, and this is no exception. It’s an honest version of history, however, painstakingly put together, and in the end, very much affirmative of the human spirit. Recommended, but even though it’s the story of both a young frontiersman and a new country about to be born, perhaps not for younger children.