Monday, March 11, 2013
Review Roundup: Past Imperfect
By Chuck Tyrell
Western Trail Blazer, October 2012
$12.95 paperback, ISBN 1480074225
$3.99 Kindle, ASIN B009QV3WKY
Loner Ness Havelock doesn’t go looking for trouble, but trouble dogs his every step. So do shady characters with grudges. A clandestine message about a friend in mortal danger sends Havelock rushing to repay an old debt, even though stepping into the fray will put him much too close to a woman he’s trying to forget. Someone tries to kill him, then a dying boy stumbles into his camp…and then all hell breaks loose.
Pitchfork Justice is a sterling example of how a talented author can craft something fresh and exciting from the most well-worn of plots and character types. Larger-than-life hero with a code of honor engraved on his soul despite his unsavory past? Check. Old friend in dire straits? Check. Beautiful woman in need of rescue? Check. Bad guys complete with black hats and fast guns? Check. In Tyrell’s hands, though, none of those things seems stale or clichéd. The plot twists and turns toward a conclusion that seems both preordained and anything except guaranteed.
Chuck Tyrell does so many things right in this story that it would be impossible to list them all. The writing voice is confident and quirky, never sounding forced. Tyrell, who was raised on a U.S. ranch before expatriating to Japan, obviously knows ranch life and the territory of the Southwest. Dialogue and narration are jam-packed with color and authenticity. The narrative alternates between the hero’s first-person point of view and close third-person points of view offered by a couple of minor characters. Tyrell wields the risky technique like a surgeon wields a scalpel.
Another thing Tyrell does extremely well is hold the reader’s attention. Just as Havelock and his assortment of associates extricate themselves from one scrape, an even bigger threat arises. Putting down the story is like eating one potato chip: No amount of resolve to indulge in moderation will save readers from the lure of guilty pleasure. “Just one more chapter, then I’ve got to close the book.” Yeah, right.
Most impressive, though, is the way Tyrell plays with established notions about good and evil. Havelock and Judge Harlow Wilson obviously play hero and villain, respectively. Everybody else is up for grabs. One character in particular stands out: A grudge-bearing gunman with a fondness for Arthurian chivalry is nothing short of riveting. The kid is a cold-blooded killer, yet readers can’t help liking the guy.
Gritty, romantic in the classical sense, familiar and yet never predictable, Pitchfork Justice is a winner.
By Matthew Pizzolato
The Western Online Press, September 2012
$5.99 paperback, ISBN 1479378518
$0.99 Kindle, ASIN B009GDDGU8
Wesley Quaid rides into a Kansas town seeking a respectable job as a cover for his plan to rob the bank. Deputy to the local lawman seems tailor-made to camouflage Quaid’s agenda…until he falls for the lawman’s niece.
Quaid grabs readers in the first sentence of this novella and never lets go. The more-often-than-not witty ladies man captures every upstanding citizen in town without even trying. He’s equally adept at lassoing readers.
Author Matthew Pizzolato has a gift for blending fun and suspense. Readers’ suspicions about the outcome will change multiple times as Quaid wrestles with his conscience and conflicting desires. Can a man escape his past, or was the past a rehearsal for destiny?
Kathleen Rice Adams is a Texan, a voracious reader, a professional journalist, and a novelist in training. She purchased Outlaw and received a review copy of Pitchfork Justice from the publisher. Her opinions are her own and are neither endorsed nor necessarily supported by Western Fictioneers or individual members of the organization.