I challenge the reader to think of the most appropriate greeting for Johnson once he starts exploring the town of Deadwood Gulch. What Crichton determined that to be was a corpse in the middle of the street. It’s a common enough occurrence for it to not be that big of a deal. In fact, nobody is really taking much of an effort to move the body. The body serves as a bit of foreshadowing, as well as Black Dick’s proper introduction. Unlike some of the other unresolved plot points, Black Dick’s story gets wrapped up nicely. Black Dick Curry is vicious, mean, and he likes to kill. Anyone that wants to stay alive in Deadwood Gulch should be careful not to cross him.
Anyone who wants to get out of Deadwood Gulch, like Johnson, needs money. Unfortunately, he struggles to think of any marketable skills that he has. Until he remembers that he can take photographs. Thus, William Johnson tries to bring some culture to there boom-town. And in doing that, he discovers that Black Dick is violently opposed to being photographed. Once again, it seems like Dick’s story arc had the most attention, since this will actually go somewhere later on. In a way, this is sort of a point where the book slows down a bit. It’s not quite as slow as the very beginning of the book, but it’s a little bit of a break from the action. Even though the book slows down here, I feel that this last third of the book has a better pace than the earlier halves. Unfortunately, this section specifically has one of the more irritating plot points in the book.
In September, General Crook and his men come to Deadwood Gulch. Johnson smooth talks Crook into taking him with them to Cheyenne. Unfortunately, this is not going to pan out the way that that Johnson is planning. While photographing the front of the motel as a gift to the owner, he captures an odd detail through one of the windows. During the time that Black Dick Curry claimed that he was in the saloon, Johnson was photographing the motel. So if Black Dick wasn’t in the hotel, why could his tattoo be seen through the window? The judge decides that for his own safety, Johnson needs to be put in the jail under protective custody overnight. Unfortunately, the judge doesn’t show up to let him out before General Crook is already long gone. So, Johnson is still stuck in Deadwood Gulch.
So I really need to ask: What was the point? What was the point of General Crook coming through? What is the point of Johnson’s false hope? Nothing really comes of it other than Johnson deciding to photograph the motel, but it just seems like there’s a way to make that happen without what I think is a bit of a waste of a chapter. I get that this is historical fiction based on real events, but Crichton took liberties as it is. I’m going a little easy because this is a manuscript, but if this went through proper editing I don’t think the chapter with General Cook would have been made it to the final draft.
So all in all, these few chapters were a bit weak, but it does get better later. It shows how the book as a whole is an enjoyable experience, it is pretty rough around the edges. I think it’s a fun story, but I won’t pretend that it’s really a final draft.