Larry Watson wrote the short novel called Montana 1948. It was a story that took place in a fictional Montana town, and the story explored the drag between loyalty to family members and the common decency of doing what is right and moral. Family members are placed on trial here not by the courts but by each other and the verdict is that morality is far more important than upholding the family name. This is a story that explores the racism that existed in the world in the late 1940's and makes it clear that there are many miles for the country to come in order to get to the point that each and every person can be secure that their rights are going to be protected regardless of race, religion or age.
The story revolves around a small town sheriff and his family. All seems well until one day the housekeeper of this family falls ill with a disease. The employer, sheriff and his family love the Native American housekeeper and call for the doctor. The doctor happens to be the brother of the sheriff, and when he arrives at the home the Native American domestic servant refuses treatment from him. The reasons are unclear at first but it becomes clear that the doctor has a thing for the local girls. In fact under that guise of treatment, he has been systematically abducting girls for years and hiding them in his basement while he sexually and physically abused them.
The story is also about how the Native American victims were too afraid to tell the authorities because the law was his brother. So for years he got away with it. Finally the sheriff arrested his brother and was going to take him to jail. It is at this point the father of the boys gets involved and sends people to bust the doctor out of custody because a trial will bring too much embarrassment to the family. The sheriff finally fights off the thugs and is about to turn the doctor in for all his crimes, but the doctor commits suicide by slitting his wrists on a broken glass jar. So he avoids the punishment on this earth that he clearly deserves.
In the end this is a story about the mistreatment of a minority and the helplessness that they felt in not being able to fight back or to stand up for themselves. Montana 1948 is a symbol of the problems that plagued society at that time. Not only with the destruction of traditional Native American Culture but with the racial problems that were facing the country in the Civil Rights Movement.