"What kind of girl steals the clothes from a dead man's back and runs off to join the army? A desperate one, that's who.
World been turned on its head by that big old war, and the army seemed like the safest place to be, until we was sent off to fight them Indians. And then? Heck! When Death's so close you can smell his breath, aint nothing makes you feel more alive."
About BUFFALO SOLDIER Tanya Landman writes:
"There are some ideas that take hold of you, some characters that seize you by the throat and don’t let go. Charley O’Hara is one of them.
Some years ago I wrote Apache, a novel set in the American west in the late nineteenth century about a girl warrior determined to avenge her brother’s death.
While I was researching for that book - reading the first person accounts of Native Americans who had lived through truly terrible times - I came across references to what they described as ‘Negro soldiers’ who rode in the hated ‘Blue Coat’ uniforms of the US army against the Apache nations.
I was intrigued. And I was uneasy.
It was just after the American Civil War and African American slaves had been freed. What were these so-called ‘Negro soldiers’ doing? Why were recently emancipated men fighting to take the freedom away from people who had always had it? What were they thinking? Feeling? How did they come to be in Apache territory?
Further reading led me to the Buffalo Soldiers, and in particular the men of the 9th and 10th United States Cavalry Regiments. Many were former slaves who found that, when liberated, there were few, if any, options open to them. They had nothing, and to survive there was no choice but sign up. When I started to read more about their background and history I was struck by the bitter irony of the situation.
And then I came across the story of Cathy Williams, a freed slave who disguised herself as a man and joined the US army as William Cathay. Her true identity was revealed two years later but I began to think that if she had done that - if she had been desperate enough to take that risk, surely there were other women who had done the same and got away with it? Someone like…well, Charley O’Hara?
Cathy Williams opened the door to a world that I felt compelled to write about. It’s taken a long time to complete this book. I headed up dead ends, blind alleys and took a lot of wrong paths. There were times I put the manuscript aside thinking it would never be finished, but every time I gave up Charley appeared, standing at my elbow and nudging me along until I’d finished writing her story."
More information on Tanya's inspirations can be found at:
An Awfully Big Blog Adventure: Girls on Film: by Tanya Landman
Tanya Landman's top tips for writing historical fiction are at:
Catherine Johnson's review is at:
Author Dyan Sheldon's review is here:
And there's a Bookwitch review at:
And on the Reading Zone site:
The Independent on Sunday's review:
There's an article on the Federation of Children's Book Groups site at:
And a feature about some of the music that inspired the book here: