Here’s a book that I had not heard of until the movie came out, but I did read News of the World by Paulette Jiles before I saw the movie. And, as is usually the case, even though I liked the movie when I finally saw it, the book is better.
The premise itself is an unusual one—a man, Captain Jefferson Kidd, wanders around the isolated settlements of Texas reading from newspapers he collects when possible, informing people—at a price—what is going on in the world beyond the borders of their limited experience. His life gets complicated when he agrees to take on a passenger, a young girl who has been held captive by a Kiowa band and has, for all practical purposes, become Kiowa herself. Kidd is to deliver her to her only surviving relatives, an aunt and uncle.
Along the way, among other adventures, they confront a trio of bad men attempting to steal the girl for nefarious purposes and violence ensues. The delivery to the girl’s relatives doesn’t work out, and the Captain’s and the girl’s lives take an unexpected turn leading to a satisfactory conclusion to the story.
The book is engaging and well written, and is one of the few Western novels nowadays to make its way to the big screen. I liked it. However, even in a novel from a major publisher and as well written and meticulously edited as this one, mistakes sneak through. As an inveterate nitpicker, I scoffed when one of the characters said, “This ain’t my first rodeo,” a phrase completely anachronistic to the time and place. And the author repeatedly refers to a part of a printing press as a paten (which is a little tray used in the Eucharist) when what she means is platen.
Picky, picky, picky.
But we all make mistakes, and News of the World is still a fine book.