On the money
Marcie Rendon creates one unforgettable heroine in Cash Blackbear

On the money
Jeffrey Mannix - 05/02/2019

We’ll be under the radar with today’s “Murder Ink” book. But I’m counting on loyal readers to delight in finding the undiscovered treasure all adventurers know is waiting in plain sight, where few find themselves or are too snow-blind to see.

Girl Gone Missing is the unworthy title of an absolutely stunning book of a sensible 224 pages written by Marcie Rendon about a young woman very much on her own in Fargo, N.D. She drinks Budweiser, smokes Marlboros, plays eight-ball and drives a beet truck when her freshman class schedule at Moorhead State College, across the Red River, permits. Her name is Cash Blackbear, and she is a 19-year-old Anishinabe Indian from the White Earth Reservation, where contemptible U.S. policy took infants from their families and remanded them into foster care with dubious white families. The misguided notion was the children would assimilate and lose their heathen ways. And how did that work out, you have to ask? Most children became indentured farm hands, many abused as slaves, and all cast adrift to live pitiably and die young of alcohol poisoning and the cognitive violence of disenfranchisement.

You might say that Cash got less unlucky in life. Sheriff Wheaton, of Norman County, pulled her from her mother’s wrecked car when she was 3 years old. She navigated foster care, and at 13 was working the beet fields, driving trucks and excelling at schoolwork. Although her real name is Renee, she made her way by working for cash, playing pool for cash and paying with cash – thus the Cash nickname. Despite her diminutive stature at 5’2,” she isn’t anyone’s fool and doesn’t have patience for surface runners. She handles the bars, fields and big diesels like the old-timers, who in turn respect her grit. Cash is stoical from living the life of a castoff child grown early to womanhood. In a different setting, she’d be prom queen, a trophy wife or tough lawyer, doctor or journalist. But here, she’s adrift by design gone rogue, with no plans beyond calling the eight ball in the corner pocket, choosing her pleasures and taking it as it comes.

Rendon is a natural storyteller and a consummate writer, and we’re indebted to Cinco Puntos Press in El Paso for bringing the unforgettable Cash Blackbear to life. There isn’t a protagonist in recent fiction with the bearing of Rendon’s creation, and we’re the better for knowing her. I don’t need to say anything more to support reading this book; you will be poorer for not having met Cash.

Now a few words about the cutting-edge story that’s as wrenching today as some hundred years ago. A story that creates this wonderful character of Cash Blackbear.

One of Cash’s classmates, a seductive blonde, goes missing. Then another. Cash’s estranged brother shows up from a stint in the Army and cracks through Cash’s carefully constructed barriers. He spreads out like the flu, talks jive and scares Cash with his American mime. These two grow ever so slightly into their shared genes, but Rendon makes him appear less then trustful, and we worry. He hears about the missing girls while Cash and Sheriff Wheaton are searching for clues in their jurisdiction. He knows, or says he knows, what happened. The girls have been lured into the sex trade. Outrageous, yes, but he says he knows because he served overseas, and he’s hip to that racket.

The meat of the story begins here, but the heart of the story is Cash Blackbear. It’s a $16 book, and with Maria’s Murder Ink 15 percent discount at Maria’s Bookshop, it’s the cost of a sandwich and coffee.

The book releases June 18; order it now.

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