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Quite why the Daily Telegraph should have asked HW to review this book (his only review in that newspaper as far as is known) is not clear – except that his name was quite definitely 'news' at the time, having been awarded the Hawthornden Prize earlier that year for Tarka the Otter. The presentation of this prize, by John Galsworthy, took place on 12 June 1928, and the very next day the Telegraph featured an article by the prize-winning author, entitled 'With a boy on the headland', adding underneath the byline: '[Mr. Williamson has been awarded the Hawthornden Prize for Literature for 1928 for his book, "Tarka the Otter."]'.


Long Lance's autobiography was published by Cosmopolitan Books (New York) in 1928. They had commissioned it as an adventure story about Indians for boys, but it quickly became a bestseller on both sides of the Atlantic, acclaimed by critics and anthropologists alike, its author a celebrity lionised by New York society.


However, all was not what it seemed: when he took part the following year in a silent film about a Native American tribe, a Native American advisor became suspicious, and Long Lance's background was investigated. It turned out that he was actually Sylvester Clark Long (1890–1932), and his father, rather than being a Blackfoot chief as Long had claimed, had been a school janitor. After leaving school Long had pretended to be half Cherokee. Discharged after the First World War as an acting sergeant (his 'distinguished war record' was also fraudulent), he later assumed a Blackfoot identity, becoming a reporter involved in supporting Native American causes. It was suspected that he may have been of African American descent, for in those times of strict racial segregation it was not unknown for those of African American heritage to deny their history and instead pass themselves off as Native Americans: they felt safer in doing do. Be that as it may, Long was quickly dropped by his so-called friends and Native American associates, and his subsequent history was a sorry and tragic one. He became a bodyguard to a female socialite, though this did not work out, and then fell in love with a dancer. In 1932 he shot himself at the home of the socialite.


Nobody, of course, was aware of Long's real background at the time HW wrote his review, although initially he had his doubts about its authenticity.



[LONG LANCE] Long Lance: The Autobiography of a Blackfoot Indian Chief (Faber & Gwyer, 1928, 10s. 6d.)




16 November 1928


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