Robert Coover tackles the impossible in Huck Out West (W.W. Norton, $26.95), a sequel to Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn that puts Huck, Tom Sawyer, Becky Thatcher and ex-slave Jim in Dakota Territory in 1876.
Huck, who has already done just about everything a fictional Westerner can do, runs afoul of General Hard Ass (aka George Custer). Coover, known for being unorthodox and anti-everything, elicits an occasional smile, but his use of dialect (of which Twain was the master) proves annoying.
Worse, though, is Coover’s malevolent treatment of Tom and Becky. Would Twain be seething? Twain himself once started a sequel that had Huck and Tom among the Indians, but showed the good sense to shelve that project. Coover should have followed suit.
—Johnny D. Boggs, author of The Kansas City Cowboys.