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St. Agnes' Stand by Thomas Eidson

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June 2011 Guest Editor Suzannah Dunn on St. Agnes' Stand...

I choose something whimsical, then something that might be described as science fiction or horror, and now I choose a western?! Well, I’m certainly surprising myself, today! But this short novel – you might well read it in a single day – is gripping and stunning. Even now, years after having read it, I can’t think of the protoganist’s conundrum and his response to it without getting a lump in my throat. A cowboy who has had a desperately hard life, much of it on the wrong side of the law, has finally struck lucky and – his lifelong dream - is on his way home to buy a ranch. Crossing the desert, he spies some wagons that have been ambushed by Apaches. From a safe distance, he assesses the situation (he’s an old hand) but realises that, regretfully, he can do nothing to help the unfortunate victims; eventually, they’re going to die – awfully – at the hands of the Apaches. But then he catches a glimpse of someone peeking from one of the wagons, and closer observation confirms that those wagons are carrying nuns and children. Appalled, he continues on his way – there really is nothing he could do for them and he’d only get himself killed if he tried - but, of course, he finds he just can’t do it, he can’t walk away…

If you like Thomas Eidson you might also like to read books by Annie Proulx, Cormac Mccarthy and Nicholas Evans.


St. Agnes' Stand by Thomas Eidson

Set in New Mexico, St Agnes' Stand is a classic story of the American West. Nat Swanson is on the run from a mob of Texas cowboys. He has killed a man in a fair fight, but the man's friends believe he was shot in the back and set out to string Swanson up for murder. A bullet in his leg slows him down and with the posse closing in, his chances of survival look dim. Trying desperately to get to sanctuary in California, he comes upon two freight wagons besieged by Apaches, and, against his better judgment, stops to help. He kills one of the Indians with his grandfather's antique crossbow, buying time for whoever survives behind the wagons. Thinking he's done his good deed, he continues his flight. One of those trapped, however, is 76-year-old Sister Agnes, who prays to God for a man to deliver her, her fellow nuns and the seven orphans they are transporting. Sister Agnes is convinced that Nat Swanson has been sent by God to rescue them. Swanson is equally convinced that the best they can hope for is not to be taken alive. And for five gruesome days in the blazing heat and dust, faith fights with humanity for the simple right to exist.


'Spare, violent and exciting...recreates an unforgiving world in which a moment's distraction could prove fatal.' Times Literary Supplement

'Compelling!a powerful feat of storytelling.' Irish Times

'The pace and tension are unremitting, but there's also time for some heart-wrenching emotion.' Daily Express

'The writing is excellent and the atmosphere of place is first rate.'
Dee Brown

'Eidson writes clean and lean, with a hint of sage incense, and can strike a lingering chord. Should make mellow celluloid entertainment.'
Kirkus Reviews

About the Author

Thomas Eidson is the author of four previous novels including the award-winning 'St Agnes' Stand', which has been optioned by Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese. In 2004, Ron Howard made his novel 'The Last Ride' into a feature film, 'The Missing'. Thomas Eidson lives in Boston, Massachusetts.

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Book Info

Publication date

1st August 2009


Thomas Eidson

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HarperCollins Publishers Ltd an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers


192 pages


Literary Fiction
Historical Fiction
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