GLEN ROCK, N.J. -- A mountain of books have been written about the disaster of Custer's Last Stand, but Glen Rock's John Koster takes on an aspect of this well-traveled topic with an additional weapon.
"I can actually speak Lakota, and most of the people that write about these things don't," he told Daily Voice.
The Lakota are Sioux Indians, and one of the three tribes that joined together to square off against General Custer and his forces in late June, 1876.
Koster's latest book is "Custer's Lost Scout." Published in late February and now available on Amazon, it examines an old mystery of that fateful battle.
There are only two Amazon reviews so far, but both give it five stars out of five. One describes the book as
an excellent piece of historical detective work on a minor but fascinating mystery of the Little Bighorn -- how did Left Hand, a Sioux warrior who signed up to scout for Custer, rate a hero's funeral instead of being hacked up and scalped after somebody shot him?
Left Hand had been a scout and messenger for Custer in the six months before the fatal battle of the Little Bighorn. He vanished before the battle, however -- and turned up laid out with full burial honors by the hostile Indians of Sitting Bull.
Koster used firsthand narrative histories and his knowledge of Sioux culture and their language to piece together what happened.
He was also assisted by a longtime friend, John Eagle Shield, who is a relative of Sitting Bull and the current medical director of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in North Dakota.
The author isn't new to this field of historical writing. While working at the Bergen Record in the late '60s and '70s, he won the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi Award for distinguished service, for his "Road to Wounded Knee."
He said the 1974 book ultimately sold about 400,000 copies.
Koster was introduced to the American Indian Movement in 1970, when he had a two-hour conversation with Russell Means, who became a well-known activist in the movement.
His 2010 book "Custer Survivor" inspired a two-hour documentary on the History Channel in 2011, "Custer's Last Man."
"If you're interested in that kind of thing, it was well done," Koster said.
He sat down to watch it with his adult son, and they were armed with two bottles of wine: "The second one was in case it was a disaster," he explained.
They didn't need that second bottle.
"Custer's Lost Scout" is Koster's seventh book. He's also done three re-writes, for other authors, but he doesn't include those in his official count.
In addition to history buffs and those specifically interested in this particular battle, Koster also thinks the book will appeal to those who want insight into Indian life and culture.
"It's a portrait of Indians, but it doesn't paint them as perfect people."