(Masterpieces of American Literature)

The theme and setting of Welch’s second novel, The Death of Jim Loney, are similar to those of his first. Loney is a thirty-five-year-old half-breed living in Harlem, a small Montana town near the reservation. The differences between Loney and the narrator of Winter in the Blood, however, are considerable. The earlier book’s narrator lives on the reservation and visits the towns. Jim Loney resides in town and visits the reservation, but he is not at home anywhere. He is a “breed,” half non-Indian, half nonwhite, neither here nor there. His Indian mother is absent, perhaps insane; his white father is physically present in Harlem, near enough for Loney to know he is “the worst sort of dirt.”

Even more than Winter in the Blood, this is the story of absolute isolation. Even the protagonist’s name is a play on “lone” and “lonely,” a fact underscored by his nickname, “The Lone Ranger.” The narrator of Winter in the Blood felt nothing for the people in his home but realized that at least there was a place called home. The relationships seemed empty but still carried memories.

In contrast, Loney and his sister, Kate, were abandoned by their mother as infants. Their father, now a sixty-two-year-old barfly living on pasteurized cheese and scrounged beer, abandoned them as children. Kate has made a career in education and wants to bring Loney to Washington, D.C., to live with her. Loney’s...

(The entire section is 483 words.)

The Death of Jim Loney Bibliography

(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Charles, Jim. “’A World Full of Bones and Wind’: Teaching Works by James Welch.” English Journal 93, no. 4 (March, 2004): 64-69.

Curwen, Thomas. “The Book of Dreams.” Los Angeles Times, October 1, 2000, p. 7.

Gish, Robert Franklin. Beyond Bounds: Cross-Cultural Essays on Anglo, American Indian, and Chicano Literature. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1996.

Lee, Don. “About James Welch.” Ploughshares 20, no. 1 (Spring, 1994): 193-199.

Lee, Don. James Welch: A Critical Companion. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2004.

McFarland, Ron. Understanding James Welch. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2000.

Nixon, Will. “James Welch.” Publishers Weekly 237, no. 40 (October 5, 1990): 81-82.

Saxon, Wolfgang. Obituary. The New York Times, August 9, 2003, p. B6.

Seals, David. “Blackfeet Barrister.” The Nation 251, no. 18 (November 26, 1990): 648-650.

Welch, James. “Interview with James Welch (1940-2003).” Interview by Mary Jane Lupton. American Indian Quarterly 29, nos. 1/2 (Winter/Spring, 2005): 198-211.