I was a horse-crazy eight-year-old when my father’s novel The Cowboy and the Cossack was first published. My father had always been slightly bigger than life to me, not unlike the characters in his books, with his ever present cowboy boots and Stetson, sky blue eyes and warm smile. Even as a young girl I knew it was a profound honor to be referred to as a “Cossack in Los Angeles” in his dedication.
I read the original watermarked manuscript before it was even published, and I have reread it every few years since then. Each time the book speaks to me in different ways and frames the passing chapters of my life with Dad’s passion, philosophy, and spirit. What I viewed as a grand adventure as a teenager transformed as I became a young adult, and I began to see the novel as an allegory about the commonality of all men--how our shared humanity transcends borders, cultures, and ethnicity. Dad managed to entertain without proselytizing, while his subtext spoke of true men judging one another not by their cultural or racial differences but by the content of their characters.
After my father’s death, I once again found myself picking up Cowboy to reconnect with him and perhaps look for answers. Carl Sagan wrote that books “Break the shackles of time... proof that humans can work magic.” And in the years after Dad passed, his magic was in full force. I could hear his voice speaking to me as I read his words, and in a way he wasn’t gone at all, and his passages about death and living life to the fullest resonated with greater clarity than ever.
With the advent of the internet and online reviews, I discovered a whole new world of readers Clair had touched. Russian families who considered their ragged copy a family treasure. A wife who read the book out loud to her bedridden husband. An American soldier whose frayed and page worn paperback was the first thing in his backpack each time he left for duty and for over a decade he carried it to dozens of countries where it was passed among his fellow soldiers for strength and inspiration .
It is nearly impossible for me to convey what it means to me to have my father’s novel reborn to a new generation of readers. It is a profound honor to continue his legacy by inviting new readers into his epic adventure which at its core illuminates the essential traits he believed a man should steadfastly possess: honor, courage, integrity and quiet strength. -- Samantha Clair Kirkeby