is the first solo novel by Howard Waldrop
originally published in paperback as one of the
The book is a light confection
set in three different historical periods.
The main narrative concerns Madison Yazoo
Leake, who was intended
to be an advance party for a group of military
time travellers attempting to change history and avoid
a third world war. Instead he finds himself
alone in an America populated by Native Americans who trade
with Persians and fight against expansionist Aztecs.
He discovers this as he falls in with a tribe of
Mound Builders and learns their life and language.
The second period is 1929 where agroup of archaeologists
are excavating a Mound which seems to contain
anachronistic objects. They are working against a flood
which will eventually drown the mounds behind new levees
of the Mississippi.
The third thread is a series of dispatch notes from a
military encampment which would appear to be the one
from which Leake came.
Leake's story is clearly set in an alternate version of
history, but the novel is effectively a roman à clef as
the reader attempts to relate the three strands of the tale
to each other and to our own history. There is also an
element of magical realism to Leake's tale which contrasts
neatly with the gritty realism of the other storylines.
Them Bones is a thoroughly readable, entertaining-but-lightweight