Even in the realm of narrative history, this is fairly unique. The Frontiersmen reads much like a novel, but it is as historically sourced as possible (and contains a fair number of endnotes, though more for explaining context rather than giving sources). Because of the format, Eckert is at pains to describe how he put his book together in a foreword.

And it works. It did take some getting used to, as my history-reading and novel-reading instincts clashed for a bit. The book presents much of the immediate feel of life on the frontier, which is something inevitably lost in most historical works, but well-conveyed by fiction.

The book largely covers the settlement of Kentucky, Ohio, and Indiana (~1770-1813), largely from the point of view of Simon Kenton. Kenton is one of the central figures of the American move across the Appalachians, though not as well known as contemporaries such as Daniel Boone (possibly because Boone came first, and naturally attracted much of the story telling of the time). As a partial balance, the book also traces Temcumseh’s entire life. Overall, both sides of what was happening in the area is presented, with attention paid to atrocities perpetrated by settlers and Indians. It still concentrates more on activities of the settlers, but that is where the records are, and it is not Eckert’s purpose to split hairs by finely examining archeology and oral traditions.

However, Eckert’s book does suffer from its formatting. Each chapter consists of a large number of subchapters, each of which is dated. Normally, this works out well, and is handy to place the chronology, but there’s plenty of sections that are just summaries of the previous few months, and towards the end there are entire years that are summarized with a ‘December 31’ entry.

I’d like to see more narrative history in general, and I think this format is good enough that it deserves to be used more than it has been. But while this is a good book, I can’t help but feel like it’s still a little too limited.