Ox-Bow Incident

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Walter Van Tilburg Clark (1909—1971)

William Styron (1925—2006)


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Novel by Walter Van T. Clark, published in 1940.

A trailhand, Art Croft, in 1885 tells the story of cattle rustlers who murdered a rancher and stole his stock near the Nevada mountain town of Bridger's Wells. A posse is formed to find and lynch the culprits, although the storekeeper Arthur Davies, the sanctimonious Reverend Osgood, and pompous Judge Tyler argue weakly for a fair trial. They are quickly overwhelmed by the old Confederate major Willard Tetley, a prominent rancher, the tough stage driver Bill Winder, the town drunk Monty Smith, and others who ride out and in a small valley with an ox-bow-shaped river find the Mexican Juan Martinez, the senile Alva Hardwick, and a young rancher, Donald Martin, with cattle which they cannot prove they own. Despite Martin's convincing statement about his innocence, the three are hanged, Martin in a bungled way by Tetley's son Gerald, who is forced to the act by the Major. Upon returning to town the posse finds that the three men were innocent. Gerald hangs himself in his father's barn, the elder Tetley kills himself with his old cavalry sword, and Davies, filled with self-pity as much as with remorse, takes up a collection for Martin's widow and children.

Subjects: Literature.

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