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Real People Books In Order

Publication Order of Real People Books

The Way of the Priests (1992) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
The Dark Way (1993) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
The White Path (1993) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
The Way South (1993) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
The Long Way Home (1994) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
The Dark Island (1995) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
The War Trail North (1995) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
The Peace Chief (1998) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
War Woman (1997) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
The Cherokee Dragon (2000) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Spanish Jack (2001) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Sequoyah (2002) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle

“Real People” is a series of novels by Robert J. Conley the American author best known for his works based on the history, tradition, folk lore, and experience of the Cherokee Nation. The first novel of the “Real People” series was “The Way of the Priests” that Conley first published in 1992. Robert was born in Cushing Oklahoma in 1940, where he lived for most of his childhood. A proud Cherokee, he was a lifelong member of the federally recognized tribe of Native Americans called the “Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians”. Conley is known for his accurate portrayal of historical Cherokee personalities during the years before contact with Wild West pioneers. With the publication of the first novel of the Real People series, he became a critically acclaimed author and a household name among Western historical fiction authors. For his novels, he has won several awards including the Best Western Novel at the 1995 Spur Awards, and two Spur Awards in 1992 for “Nickajack” the novel and “Yellow Bird” the short story that won it in 1988. In 2010, Robert J Conley made history as he was elected the chair of the Western Writers of America, the first American Indian to ever head the group at Western Carolina University. Conley died in 2014.

Even as Robert J. Conley was born in Cushing, he went to Wichita Falls for high school before he attended Midwestern University. It was at Midwestern University where he got his bachelors in Art and Drama in 1966, before going on to pursue and graduate with a masters in 1968 specializing in English. He had quite the accomplished career that included being professor of English at Southwest Missouri State University and Northern Illinois University. He was also the head if the Indian Studies department Morningside College, Bacone College, and Eastern Montana College. Outside of his professional work, he served the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma organization as Assistant Programs Manager. Since publishing his first novel in the 1980s, he went on to write more than eighty works in all manners of genres including stage scripts, poetry, critical essays, fiction, and nonfiction. Conley wrote his first novel “Back to Malachi” out of anger at what he deemed despicable misrepresentation a Cherokee that had been falsely accused of murder, before he was hunted down for nearly five years and executed by a mob. Before Conley, publishers believed that an Indian protagonist could never be the lead in a Western until Conley broke the mold. He would go on to become one of the most influential Native American author, and was instrumental in the establishment of Native American Writers Wordcraft Circle.

The “Real People” series of novels comprise ten novels all about the history of the Cherokee nation including the various incidents that happen during the sixteenth century. The series gets its name from the Cherokee, who used to call themselves “The Real People” in native Cherokee. The novels tell of the rise of priests who became so powerful only to sink into greed and corruption that finally led to their demise, as they are overthrown by angry populace. They then go on to tell of the inevitable clash with the Conquistadors, a war that the Cherokee Nation wins to send the European adventurers packing. These are then followed by French traders and a description of the wars of the Cherokee with their neighbors. The novels also describe the social organization of the nation. Women had an important role in the society as they were virtually on an equal footing with their male counterparts. Women did own houses, fought in battles and won honor, and made important decisions. This is just but an outline of the few plots of the series but it in no way describes the compulsive and vastly enjoyable narratives of the Real People series.

Conley is excellent in the way he describes the world from Native American perspectives as opposed to say that of French traders or that of Spanish Conquistadors. He is highly adept at writing page turners even if he packs a lot of narrative into very short novels. He writes in a straightforward and simple style that is akin to the telling of folk tales but at the same time manages to convey the lack of artifice and perception of the Cherokee way of life and thought. Legends are told through the stories of Jisdu the rabbit and his trickster way even as Conley describes the essence of the traditional Cherokee life.

“The Way of the Priests” is the first novel of the “Real People” series of novels by Robert J. Conley. The Cherokee Nation is facing a grim struggle for survival as their social order has changed to become almost unrecognizable. The Anita-Kutani who are the elite priestly class charged with conducting religious rites have managed to gradually lodge themselves into almost every aspect of the nation’s life. The Cherokees are in a state of great dissatisfaction, which is only compounded when their tribal lands are faced by one of the worst drought in their history. It is left to the priests to perform their religious sacrifices to produce the rain that the Cherokee Nation needs to survive. The priests are in a difficult position but know they have to provide a solution, if they are to retain their power and prevent an uprising of the common folk. But drought or rain, the Cherokee Nation will never be the same again.

“The Dark Way” is a colorful and entertaining novel full of culture and history of the Cherokee Nation. The Real People find themselves in danger of losing themselves in internal conflict. The people had rebelled against the all-powerful priests, the ruling class known as the Anita-Kutani and violently overthrew them. In doing so, they had left a void that had yet to be filled leaving the tribe in limbo. But even as internal conflict is quite a big problem, the bigger danger comes from without. The Suwali people who have been their arch enemies for eons are sensing the weakness of the tribe, and are preparing a war of conquest that could annihilate their civilization. There is a desperate struggle to impose a new social order and bring peace to the warring factions with one man holding the key to the nation’s survival. The man is the only priest that survived the massacre of the Anita-Kutani. He is the only one that knows how to avert such a disaster and save the Real People. But given the risk to his life he intends to give the dangerous information to a young boy.

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