1. A novel by Mary O'Hara, the first sequel to My Friend Flicka, published in 1943 by Lippincott of Philadelphia and illustrated by John Steuart Curry.

This book continues the story of the McLaughlin family on their Goose Bar Ranch in Wyoming. Flicka gives birth to an ugly white colt late in the season, who turns out to be a son of Charley Sargent's racehorse, Appalachian. Ken has high hopes for this colt. He plans to train it for the race track and he has vast dreams of what he will do with the prize money, including new fences for the ranch and something to cheer up his mother. The beginning of the story is far from promising--the colt is first named Goblin because of his appearance and his strange "scrabbling" run. Later, they rename him Thunderhead and he lives up to the name, growing into a large, powerful stallion who really is fast.

Thunderhead luckily avoids being gelded when he wanders away from the ranch into the mountains. He discovers a hidden valley populated by a group of wild horses lead by his legendary great-grandsire, the Albino. He is still too young to pose a threat to the Albino and so he begins to visit the wild horses often. Whenever he is back on the ranch, Ken is training him to race, but progress is slow. Thunderhead fights the training and has to be beaten into submission before he will run. As a three-year-old, it is finally time for Thunderhead to enter Mr. Beaver Greenway's ten thousand dollar race at Saginaw Falls in Idaho, but just before the race, Thunderhead escapes from the ranch again and this time he fights and kills the Albino to take over the band of mares in the Valley of the Eagles. To Ken, this is the worst thing that could possibly happen. All his dreams are destroyed. But, showing how far he has come since the opening pages of My Friend Flicka, Ken swallows the bitter pill and travels to Idaho with fortitude to race Flicka's second foal, the sorrel filly Touch And Go.

Meanwhile Nell and Rob are suffering a crisis in their marriage. The quality polo horses that Rob dreamed of raising still do not sell for the price he wants and needs. Every year they sink deeper and deeper in debt. They plan to send their elder son, Howard, to prep school in the east, but where will the tuition money come from? They have been renting some grazing land to a local sheep breeder, but now that man buys land of his own. Finally, Nell tells Rob she thinks he should give up on the horse operation and try something else. He believes she has lost confidence in him and in his ability to support the family. His anger with her and her own frustration is so great that she falls into a deep depression.

This book is much more complex than its predecessor because of the two intertwined subplots. About half of the book focuses on Nell and her problems with Rob, over a period of almost three years while Thunderhead is growing up. The other half of the book details Ken's relationship with Thunderhead and the boy's maturation as he learns that he cannot always get exactly what he wants just by wishing very hard. In addition, this book has some graphic scenes, such as the description of Thunderhead killing the Albino. Mary O'Hara also does not avoid discussing sexual relations between horses (and humans), although it is done tastefully. Found on the children's shelves at the library, this book would be enjoyable on different levels by readers of many ages.

2. A movie, "Thunderhead, Son of Flicka," (1943) was made based on the book with almost the same cast as "My Friend Flicka." Filmed at Remount Ranch, Wyoming1 by 20th Century Fox, the nonrated picture is in Technicolor and runs 78 minutes. Although I have not yet been able to watch this film, several reviewers have given hints that the screenplay did not closely follow the novel. Apparently, Thunderhead sustains a leg injury in his first race, which ends his career and keeps him confined to the ranch. Instead of the colt wandering into the mountains, the Albino comes down to steal mares from the Goose Bar herd. On one of these excursions, the Albino attacks Ken who is rescued by Thunderhead. In the ensuing fight, the Albino is killed and his mares are repatriated. As a reward, Thunderhead is allowed to take the wild mares into the mountains. Howard, Ken's older brother, is again replaced by Hildy, the young daughter of the hired hand.

The credits include:2

Notes:
1. http://members.tripod.com/~horsefame/Flicka1.html
2. http://www.tvguide.com
Also, information about the book and its plot comes from my own reading of the novel.

Nora Kelly has been an assistant professor at the prestegious Sante Fe Archaeological Institute for five and a half years, and her tenure review is coming up in another six months. The trouble is, she hasn't managed to keep up with the Institute's publishing requirements, and she's not likely to be granted tenure if she doesn't finish writing up her findings from two digs she worked on. But she dreams of making a major discovery, of finding the lost Anasazi site her father spent his life searching for. That more than anything would catapult her career onto the leading edge of Southwestern archaeology.

Then one day she is attacked while visiting the old ranch house she grew up in. The bestial men, clad in furs and smelling oddly of flowers, demand she give up some letter. She manages to escape, but knocks over her old mailbox with her truck. An envelope falls out, and she jumps out of the truck to grab it before getting back in and racing back to the city. The envelope contains a letter from her father, written years before but mailed recently, in which he talks of actually finding the legendary Anasazi city of Quivira.

After confirming her father's directions using satellite imagery of the area, Nora manages to talk the head of the Institute into putting together an expedition to find the legendary city. Leading some of the best names in the business, along with a reporter from New York, she sets out along the road to legend.

Thunderhead, the fourth novel from the writing team of Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, explores the idea that behind every myth and legend there hides a kernel of fact. The novel tackles two legends of the American Southwest: the skinwalkers or witches of Navaho mythology and the lost myth of a lost city of gold. Skinwalkers are the antithesis of the Navaho way, doing the opposite of every teaching of Navaho religion. They supposedly have magical powers, including the ability to shapeshift into wolves, and can kill by simply blowing corpse powder (made from the prints on the toe and fingertips of the dead) into one's face. The lost city, called Quivira, hidden in the canyons of Utah, was supposed to be peopled by the priests and filled with the combined golden wealth of the Anasazi. Several Spanish explorers, including Coronado, sought the site, based on legends related by local tribes.

At it's heart, Thunderhead is also a story of obsession, a theme Preston and Child have taken on well in other novels like Riptide and The Ice Limit. Nora Kelly and Sloane Goddard, both archaeologists, both daughters of archaeologists, share the obsession of finding the lost city Quivira, whatever the cost. For Nora, it means vindicating her father's life-long search and his death, as well as placing her at the forefront of her field. It would do for her what finding Tutankhaman's tomb did for Howard Carter. For Sloane, it will mean the vindication of her own life and career, proof positive that she is every bit the field scientist her father was in his day. For the first time in her life, she will be able to earn his respect, to fulfill his exceptionally (and often unreasonably) high expectations, to make him proud. Throughout the expedition, both women are willing to risk life and limb, their own, their horses, and even the other expedition members. They are both Ahabs, and the question is: will either of them back down before getting everyone killed?

I didn't grab this one as soon as it came out, though I now know I should have. I had been disappointed in Mount Dragon, which hadn't really lived up to the expectations raised by Relic. I was very pleasantly surprised when I finally did read Thunderhead. The research and the writing are both top-notch, and as always the writing styles of the two authors blend together into a seamless whole. Even knowing that certain scenes were writen primarily by one or the other of the authors, I couldn't find a place where the flow shifted in any way. The action, while not continuous, keeps the reader's interest, and the expository sections where theories or history are explained are written well enough to keep the story moving, often difficult to do in a thriller. The ideas presented for the truth behind the disappearance of the Anasazi tribe, the rise of the skinwalkers, and even the medical basis for corpse powder, are all intriguing; it's worth reading the book for those alone. All in all, I'd recommend Thunderhead to anyone interested in any of those, or just someone looking for a good adventure thriller.


Preston, Douglas and Lincoln Child. Thunderhead. Warner Books. 1999.

Thun"der*head` (?), n.

A rounded mass of cloud, with shining white edges; a cumulus, -- often appearing before a thunderstorm.

 

© Webster 1913.

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