Unique and scary as hell. Revenge is a messy business and that’s exactly the case in “The Only Good Indians”. Four men are individually reminded of the tragedy they incited on a fateful November day ten years prior by someone…or something that holds a grudge against them. Jones’s writing is vivid and brutal and had me turning pages in anticipation of what came next.
Spoilers ahead. Read on if you dare.
Pretty early on in the story, we become aware that not all is as it should be when Ricky, one of the only Native American men at a bar goes outside to “take a leak” and is nearly attacked by an elk. But this elk doesn’t just run off into the night as Ricky expects; it takes aim at the other trucks in the parking lot. When patrons of the bar come out and see all the damage, they immediately assume Ricky dealt it and chase him down. The entire encounter feels premeditated and eerie but that’s only the first few pages to get you warmed up.
Next we meet Louis, who has left the reservation for love with Peta, a white woman and a career in the postal service. Things seem pretty nice for Louis. Until he is haunted by the image of a dead female elk lying on his living room floor, an image that stirs memories of a Thanksgiving hunt he and his three friends (Ricky, Cassidy, and Gabe) did ten years ago that ended horribly. Trespassing on land in a truck they shouldn’t be driving, they encounter an almost mythical giant herd of elk, one that the hunters immediately begin blasting all to hell. They’re stoked, never having expected to find this kind of treasure trove, anticipating the insane amount of meat they’ll be able to bring back home to the tribe and their families. That is until Lewis goes down to inspect the herd and finds a young pregnant elk still alive. Another shot to the head doesn’t kill her. The second does. And as Lewis is skinning and harvesting from this elk, he knows deep down that he’s done something unforgivable, something that can’t be taken back. He resolves to try and use every last bit of the elk as a way to ensure that her sacrifice wasn’t a waste.
But, as terrible things start befalling Lewis and those around him, we immediately get the sense that this bid to respect the animal wasn’t enough.
More over, as a reader, I was treated to a unique cultural point of view that I’m as ignorant about as the next person. I truly appreciated the frankness with which Jones wrote. I think the quality of being direct and not trying to explain oneself too much really made this book that much better. There were things I didn’t get the first time that I had to reread. But I’m not counting that as a bad thing; I learned a lot from reading Jones’s book and there’s more still to learn about Native American culture and society. And basketball. There are a lot of references to basketball. Again, all enjoyable to learn about.
I also appreciated that I had no idea what was going to happen from page to page. Some horror is pretty predictable but “The Only Good Indians” was practically impossible to gauge from one chapter to the next. And I LOVED IT!
I definitely recommend for fellow horror or dark fiction enthusiasts to read this one. I do think the beginning of the book is a bit of a slow burn but stick with it and you’ll soon find yourself getting whiplash from all the dread and terror.
For my next book, I’m almost finished reading my friend, Kevin Lewis’s book, The Catcreeper. After that, I’ll be starting into Grady Hendrix’s “The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires”.