The Sergeant’s Lady
This Western is set in the waning days of the wars against the Apaches in Arizona Territory. Cavalry Sgt. Swing’s detail is assigned to set up a heliograph station on a mountain, using mirrors and sunlight to signal the whereabouts of any Apaches they see. When making trips to a nearby ranch for water and supplies, Swing becomes interested in the rancher’s feisty sister, who is as fearless an Indian fighter as any cavalryman. And Swing and his men need all the help they can get when a seemingly friendly visit by Apache women and children turns nasty.
Swarthout based this novel on a short story his father published in the 1950s. The author’s screenwriting experience (The Shootist) stands him in good stead. He paints excellent word pictures, and the story moves at a rapid pace through the short chapters. The character development is many cuts above most genre novels. Minor characters such as Swing’s men and the Apaches are all distinct individuals. Swarthout imparts much interesting information about Apache and cavalry life without force-feeding the reader. An outstanding Western, worthy of many re-reads.