Major Marcus Reno is a controversal figure, a man accused of being responsible for the worst disaster ever to befall the army of the United States. He had been one of George Armstrong Custer's senior officers when Custer and over 200 men in his command were annihilated by Sioux and Cheyenne warriors above the Little Big Horn River in Montana Territory.
While declared by his superiors innocent of wrong-doing in the terrible battle, Marcus Reno's honor -the most precious word in his vocabulary - was blackened in the press and by his fellow officers and other Custer idolators.
For thirteen years Reno has lived with this stain on his reputation. Now, with time running out, suffering from painful cancer, Reno wants his honor restored. He arranges to give a final newspaper interview to New York Herald correspondent Joseph Richler. Richler, captivated by this officer and gentleman, promises the dying Major that he will write the whole story of Reno's conduct in battle and its aftermath.
Richler learns that Reno was tortured by the death of his beloved wife, hell-bent toward self-destruction by alcohol, and plagued by a peculiar dual personality -- decisive and in control on the battlefield, yet unable to win the respect of his fellow officers.
In An Obituary for Major Reno, Richard S. Wheeler, a master of the biographical novel, provides a brilliant reconstruction of the Custer battle and Marcus Reno's subsequent courts martial for "conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman," and brings to life a beleaguered man and his search to restore his lost honor.