Books commonly do not live up to the hype they receive, so when I read comments about this one being, "the only definitive book on this notable Indian" and others to that effect, I was initially skeptical. Then I read the book and found myself agreeing with the praise heaped on it, for Debo did indeed write a balanced and readable account of both Geronimo and the Apache, not to mention various parties from the U.S.A. who dealt with them (such as those in the Department of the Interior or army figures such as General Crook or Britton Davis), all based on years of careful research, personal interviews and extensive correspondance. The result is a book that gives a little of everything pertaining to Apache life in general and Geronimo and his contemporaries in particular. She writes with interest about past Apache history, Apache customs (such as the Dance of the Mountain Spirits), geographical distribution of various factions within the tribe, and the lives of those associated with Geronimo such as Cochise, Mangas Coloradas, Victorio, his wives, his sisters, Naiche, Nana, or Loco, to name but a few. Moreover, she writes of the division of opinion and lifestyle within the Apache themselves with respect to living on reservations and raiding. The raiding and killing done by Geronimo and other Apache hostiles, coupled with the duplicity and injustice of the U.S. government, ultimately brought disaster on many of the peaceful, productive Apache. The years of imprisonment and exile following Geronimo's capture show the great forbearance of the Apache, along with the difficulties faced by all parties in trying to preserve the Apache way of life while at the same time trying to become incorporated into mainstream American society.
Geronimo himself is treated fairly and shown in all his complexities. The reader is neither given the hero worship type biography nor the spiteful villain approach, but rather a temperate account of a strong, courageous, independent, yet flawed human who both fought for his people and yet brought disaster to them as well. As such, the man's humanity is revealed: his kindness to children and relatives, his good work ethic (even in old age), his fidelity to justice as he saw it, his courage in battle, his deeply religious nature, and willingness to endure hardship are just as evident as are his hatred towards Mexicans, weakness for alcohol, and willingness to murder and steal. Photographs are liberally sprinkled throughout the text, providing excellent visual aids.
I found Debo's writing to be neither overly sentimental nor dry as dust. She obviously took great interest in her subject and from time to time placed personal comments in the text or footnotes which give the reader the feeling that they are receiving a STORY and not merely a dry academic treatise. This is definitely a five-star book and I read it with great interest.