Monday, July 8, 2013
Review Roundup: Them’s Fightin’ Words
By Ford Fargo
Western Fictioneers, April 2012
$8.99 paperback, ISBN 1484086872
$2.99 Kindle, ASIN B00CC5NLZM
Having barely recovered from attacks by outlaws, Indians, and the Old West’s version of hit men, Wolf Creek, Kansas, now faces a new threat. A megalomaniac is determined to own the entire county; possibly the state. Equipped with a fortune and a gaping hole where his conscience should be, he’ll let nothing stand in the way of his ambition, including dinosaur bones, cantankerous elderly ranchers, the local law…and schoolchildren.
Since this is Wolf Creek, there will be blood.
Range wars are a time-honored staple of western novels, but in true Wolf Creek fashion, the dust-up at the heart of Book 4: The Taylor County War is anything but clichéd. In fact, the war itself is no more than a plot device on which to hang a title. Far more important than the cattle rustling and cold-blooded murders that occur during the scuffle are the effects on the ensemble cast. Several primary players return in this volume: schoolteacher Marcus Sublette, Sheriff G.W. Satterlee, Marshal Sam Gardner, cowboy Billy Below, and town doc Logan Munro. Drifting gunslinger Wesley Quaid (written by Matthew Pizzolato) makes his debut appearance.
Frank Miller, a schoolboy on the cusp on manhood, escapes the carnage visited upon his fellow students, and one hopes to see more of him in future volumes. Miller plans to be a lawman, and he bears all the earmarks of a fascinating future Wolf Creek star.
Billy Below (written by Chuck Tyrell) is the standout character this time. A running gag about the unfortunately located bullet wound he receives during the range war’s opening salvo injects no little humor into a dire situation. As each point-of-view character gives his take on events and stakes, another layer of the Wolf Creek onion is peeled away. Sublette, armed with a Confederate sharpshooter’s Whitworth, is not the mild-mannered educator he at first seems. Satterlee and Gardner, two sides of the same coin, might be enemies under different circumstances, but in Wolf Creek they casually accept what each sees as shortcomings in the other. Munro’s analytical mind presents him as something of a western Sherlock Holmes, and Quaid’s edgy detachment adds an outsider’s perspective…with bite.
Altogether, Book 4: The Taylor County War continues the Wolf Creek tradition in fine fashion. Action, intrigue, humor, and an incompletely resolved threat will leave readers champing at the bit for the next volume.
Kathleen Rice Adams is a Texan, a voracious reader, a professional journalist, and a novelist in training. She received a review copy of Wolf Creek Book 4: The Taylor County War from the publisher. Her opinions are her own and are neither endorsed nor necessarily supported by Western Fictioneers or individual members of the organization.