Friday, February 25, 2011
“NO COWBOYS OR TEXANS OF ANY SORT ALLOWED INSIDE TOWN LIMITS UNDER PENALTY OF LAW!”
Thus reads the sign posted on the outskirts of Redemption, Kansas. And they mean it.
Unfortunately, young cowboy Bill Harvey has sustained a serious leg injury in a stampede caused by rustlers, and his partners have little choice but to leave him in Redemption to convalesce. Bill wants to finish out his first cattle drive, but is forced to remain in the town he describes as a backwater settlement for at least a week until he is able to walk. He finds himself under the care of a grizzled storekeeper and his beautiful daughter, Eden… and it doesn’t take him long to realize that the local peace officers are not quite what they seem. There is a dark cloud over Redemption, Kansas –the citizens live in fear. The more questions Bill asks, the more dangerous life becomes for him… and for the family that has taken him in.
This is a suspenseful story, with well-drawn characters, that I found hard to put down. There is more action than you would expect in a tale with a stove-up hero, a strong young man who is not used to feeling helpless, and the tension builds as Bill figures out what is really going on but can’t quite figure out what he’s going to be able to do about it. Bill’s frustration at his physical limitations, his youthful innocence, his fears for his new friends, and the well-developed romance with Eden make him a very sympathetic character. The villains, especially the scar-faced deputy Zach Norris, are formidable.
This is the first new western to come out from James Reasoner under his own name for a while. He writes well no matter what name is on the cover, but I’m glad to see him getting full credit for this one. The name “James Reasoner” popped out at me in the ‘90s when I read several short story anthologies in a row that had tightly-written, powerful tales of his –“Wish Book” stands out particularly in my memory –and those, plus the classic Under Outlaw Flags, quickly made him one of my favorite writers. Reading his new book makes me remember why. If you want to read a good traditional western, I give this one a strong recommendation.
Review by Troy D. Smith, the award-winning author of RIDING TO SUNDOWN, BROTHERS IN ARMS, THE PEOPLE IN YONDER, and GOOD REBEL SOIL: THE CHAMP FERGUSON STORY, among others. Troy is currently a Doctoral candidate in the History Department at the University of Illinois. He says, "I don't write about things that happen to people—I write about people that things happen to.")