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Bud Foutz, shown advising Alconbury cross country runners in October, has an overseas market for his Native American-themed novels.

Bud Foutz, shown advising Alconbury cross country runners in October, has an overseas market for his Native American-themed novels. (Rusty Bryan / S&S)

With his second novel rolling off the presses, DODDS-Europe educator, coach and author Bud Foutz of Alconbury High School in England just keeps getting better.

Foutz’s first novel about American Indian life, 2005’s “Tatanka — Valley of the Bear,” drew comparisons from the German Book Office in New York to the winner of the 1991 Best Picture Oscar winner, “Dances with Wolves.” The film also dealt with the Lakota people Foutz has chronicled in his first two books. The author is well-versed in the Indian culture — he was born on the Navajo reservation in New Mexico.

Foutz’s second novel, “Tatanka — Return of the Horses,” was released in September and is a prequel to the first book. It describes the events and tragedies in the life of early 19th-century Lakota warrior Tatanka Najin (Standing Bull) that led him to his near-solitary life depicted in “Valley of the Bear.” The novels’ main character, Tatanka, is the son of a Lakota mother and a Scottish trader. Tatanka becomes regarded as a mystical “Spirit Walker” by his mother’s people.

Praise for the new book is rolling in.

“I just got a postcard from a bookseller,” Foutz’s editor, Carolin Boettler, said in a recent e-mail to the author, “… saying ‘Tatanka – Return of the Horses’ is the most beautiful adventure since ‘The Leatherstocking Tales.’ Period.”

“The story teller is back!” exulted the review section of the Web site Amazon.de when Foutz’s second book appeared. “The authenticity and atmosphere are equal to the previous one.”

Whether Foutz will attain James Fenimore Cooper status when he finishes his third Tatanka novel, currently in progress, is anyone’s guess. But he clearly has the backing of his German publisher, Thienemann, which contracted him to write the trilogy.

Astoundingly, what Foutz doesn’t have is an English-language publisher. Even though he writes in English, the adventures of Tatanka are available only in German, Spanish and Korean. That his book appears in even those languages approaches the miraculous.

“When I finished the first book, I couldn’t get a literary agent in the States to take it on,” said Foutz, formerly of the DODDS-Europe Outdoor Adventures team in Berchtesgaden, Germany, and currently the Alconbury cross country coach. “I took it around to a book fair in Leipzig (Germany) and handed out chapters to all the publishers there. I got quite a few ‘Nein, dankes,’ but [Boettler] read three chapters and asked me to send her a manuscript.”

Thienemann published “Valley of the Bear” 11 months later. Of the 10,000 copies of the book printed, 8,000 have sold so far, according to the publisher. About 1,500 copies of “Tatanka — Return of the Horses” have been sold.

To Foutz, the characters are just as important as the storytelling.

“The characters tell the story themselves,” he said. “I don’t have much control over them. I keep writing because I want to find out what happens.”

In addition to the third volume of his Tatanka trilogy, Foutz is planning a novel about abuse at government-run reservation boarding schools before World War II. His central character, based on a historical figure, is a Navajo Medal of Honor recipient who rises above his mistreatment.

And there are apt to be more tales.

“I plan to keep writing,” he chuckled. “It keeps me out of trouble.”


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