Coplin's debut novel soars well above most humdrum historical fiction, borne aloft by graceful prose, compellingly likable characters and a spirit of heartfelt humanity. West Point graduate (class of 1874) Lt. Michael Crofton begins his military career in earnest at Little Big Horn when he's sent over a nearby ridge to see what's going on with his commanding officer, Gen. George Armstrong Custer, and Custer's 260 troopers. ("We all disliked Custer, a braggart, a malefactor, a hound for glory. But, oh, the man cut a figure on horseback.") After a hairsbreadth escape from Crazy Horse, Crofton, the polar opposite of Custer in all ways except courage, embarks on a life of action and adventure. After being shot in the chest by a French whore he's attempting to rescue, he sees action on the steamy shores of revolutionary Cuba, shoots his way out of a Ku Klux Klan siege, toils behind a desk in Washington, D.C., and ends up fighting alongside gallant British comrades in the East African Zulu War. In combat as in life, Crofton always acquits himself with honor. Along the way he finds love, acquires an unusual bride, meets a gallery of luminaries (Generals Grant and Sherman among them) and lives a full and satisfying life. Author Coplin supplies his unassuming and modest hero with enough self-deprecating humor and honesty to keep him from being too unrelentingly perfect. Readers accustomed to more formulaic shoot 'em ups may find the novel less than riveting, but those who care about fine writing and a satisfying story will find all of that and more in these pages.
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*Starred Review* Coplin, a 60-year-old first novelist, has roared out of the gate with all cylinders firing. His debut is a soldier's story, part Tim O'Brien, part James Jones, but with the underlying humor of Little Big Man. It begins with a simple sentence, "Something had gone terribly wrong," spoken by Second Lieutenant Michael Crofton, who just misses Little Big Horn but watches in horror as (in this version) Custer's own men turn their guns on their foolhardy commander. As the novel follows Crofton through skirmishes with a sharpshooting prostitute, a gang of frontier KKKers, and on to bigger battles, first in Cuba and then in Africa during the Zulu war, the point of view never swerves from the individual soldier in the chaos of battle, torn between the overpowering impulse to stay alive and the need to do his job and not let down his fellow soldiers. That dilemma is at the heart of all good war novels, of course, but Coplin manages to translate it into terms both utterly fresh yet disarmingly ordinary. The novel isn't quite as sharp when it moves away from the battlefield to Crofton's family life, but even when addressing more subtle relationship issues, Coplin keeps the narrative hurtling forward in overdrive. This rambunctiously entertaining mix of western and war novel is brutally realistic when it needs to be but also has room for humor and a bit of romance. A resounding success. Bill Ott
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
I picked this book up to read on a plane trip and it kept my interest even after the flight. I didn't buy it for historical fact, so I was primarily hoping the characters and story... Read morePublished on July 8 2004 by "azkuke"
Crofton's Fire is a winner! With prose that flows like clear water over white rocks, the plot is enticing and terrifying, but it's the fiber of the book that is truly amazing: in... Read morePublished on April 24 2004 by Charles Newman
At first, the book feels insubstantial, too light. Then the spare, lean language flowing like water drags you along to deeper meaning. Read morePublished on March 27 2004 by John Bowes
Amazing to think that this is Coplin's debut novel.
He writes spare, perfectly paced prose as if he were a seasoned pro. Read more
I'm a nut for historic fiction and I was very excited about this book's release. It had been hyped up to me by a few friends, so when I read it, my expectations were high. Read morePublished on Feb. 9 2004