Book to Film
The Son By Phillip Meyer
“How much do I love The Son? Let me count the ways” (sorry Shakespeare!). Are we tired of hearing the words, “epic?” And “sweeping?” Oh, and how’s about “sprawling!” Yeah.
Then how can I condense the plot of the book and the TV, 2 season, mini-series of The Son? Forgive me then if I just copy a section of the New York Times book review! Let me count THEIR ways…
“The critically acclaimed, New York Times bestselling epic, a saga of land, blood, and power that follows the rise of one unforgettable Texas family from the Comanche raids of the 1800s to the oil booms of the 20th century. Part epic of Texas, part classic coming-of-age story, part unflinching examination of the bloody price of power, The Son is a gripping and utterly transporting novel that maps the legacy of violence in the American west with rare emotional acuity, even as it presents an intimate portrait of one family across two centuries.
Eli McCullough is just twelve-years-old when a marauding band of Comanche storm his Texas homestead and brutally murder his mother and sister, taking him as a captive. Despite their torture and cruelty, Eli—against all odds—adapts to life with the Comanche, learning their ways, their language, taking on a new name, finding a place as the adopted son of the chief of the band, and fighting their wars against not only other Indians, but white men, too-complicating his sense of loyalty, his promised vengeance, and his very understanding of self. But when disease, starvation, and westward expansion finally decimate the Comanche, Eli is left alone in a world in which he belongs nowhere, neither white nor Indian, civilized or fully wild.
Deftly interweaving Eli’s story with those of his son, Peter, (the book title guy) and his great-granddaughter, JA, The Son deftly explores the legacy of Eli’s ruthlessness, his drive to power, and his life-long status as an outsider, even as the McCullough family rises to become one of the richest in Texas, a ranching-and-oil dynasty of unsurpassed wealth and privilege. Harrowing, panoramic, and deeply evocative, The Son is a fully realized masterwork in the greatest tradition of the American canon-an unforgettable novel that combines the narrative prowess of Larry McMurtry with the knife edge sharpness of Cormac McCarthy.”
Author Phillip Meyer is not a Texan. He grew up the child of academics in a blue-collar neighborhood of Baltimore. He read books and acted like an intellectual at home, but felt he had to suppress that part of himself when he went out into his rough-and-tumble neighborhood. For The Son, Meyer reports he read more than 250 books on the West. And to understand what life might have been like for the Comanche he spent months in the desert and the plains, eating and sleeping outdoors.
He told NPR- “I taught myself to bow hunt; I took weeks and months of tracking classes on how to track animals and how to understand how Native Americans related to their environment. I went to a buffalo rancher who raises organic, grass-fed buffalo for restaurants and I helped him kill several buffalo. After we shot these animals, basically I took a coffee mug and filled it with the blood from the animal’s neck and drank it because that was another thing the Comanches did with some regularity.”
“I didn’t know much about Texas when I moved there for graduate school. (From 2005 to 2008 Meyer was a fellow at the Michener Center for Writers in Austin, Texas.) In my first or second semester, I took a class in life and literature of the Southwest, and that’s where I first heard about these events along the border in 1915-1918, what Anglos called the Bandit Wars. It involved a series of attacks on ranches and infrastructure that were basically minor. The result of those attacks was a long series of massacres of Mexican-Americans, or Tejanos, all along the Texas border from Brownsville up to West Texas. It was a major part of Texas history… and I’d never heard of it. And that was the seed of the first part of the book.” Meyer told Bustle.
In an interview with AARP, Pierce Bronson said of his starring part in the show, “Eli is a good guy, a good man who does bad things, a man twisted and turned and molded by his life. I did reference John Wayne and was very much inspired by his persona. I was brought up on a cinematic diet of cowboys and Indians as a young boy in the South of Ireland. So to play Eli was a rare treat. I was enthralled by the duality of the character.”
And there you have it. We’ve counted some ways. The Son, it “shakes-a-spear,” a Comanche spear, at a Texas Shakespearian tale.
More on The Son…
See the TV trailer! – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VonLMVPPUvI
Gus of the Son – https://www.tactical-life.com/firearms/the-son-amc-tv-series-guns/
Article – https://www.npr.org/2013/05/28/186469381/the-son-a-texas-saga-with-guilt-and-gore-to-go-around
Article – https://www.bustle.com/p/is-the-son-based-on-a-true-story-the-amc-series-finds-inspiration-in-real-texas-history-49006