Monday, July 8, 2013

Review Roundup: Them’s Fightin’ Words

Wolf Creek Book 4: The Taylor County War
By Ford Fargo
Western Fictioneers, April 2012
$8.99 paperback, ISBN 1484086872
$2.99 Kindle, ASIN B00CC5NLZM
172 pages

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.


  1. Great review, Kathleen. I haven't had a chance to read all of Book 4 yet, only James' chapter. I'm falling behind. Too many great books to read, not enough time.

  2. James' chapters are always good, Livia. I'm a fan of his westerns; James has a distinctive style. I'm always surprised when he writes a Wolf Creek chapter and I can't automatically pick it out. That's a testament to how well this project works. I still say it's phenomenal that so many authors can work together in a way that seamlessly blends the elements of their various voices into something entirely new.

  3. I'm glad you liked it, Kathleen! I'm starting to think that having so many great writers, each focusing intently on their own character, is making this series really resonate with believable, real-seeming characters. They really are all coming alive.

  4. It's a pleasure to continue to flesh out Billy Below. More of his backstory can be found in Wolf Creek 6.

    Thanks for reviewing our efforts, and as Troy says, the Wolf Creek series seems to offer something unique for the Western fiction aficionado.

  5. Chuck, GREAT job with Billy. Between your chapter and Billy's recurrence in almost everyone else's chapters, he leaped off the page and into the room as a very solid presence. Gotta love the guy. :-)

    Troy, I think you're right: A series packed with recurring characters repeatedly written by their creators gives readers a whole bunch of insight they normally wouldn't receive. That is one of Wolf Creek's greatest strengths, IMO: Readers get to know these people intimately, forming relationships as though the characters actually existed in the flesh -- much like the relationships fans form with characters in serialized comic books. :-)

  6. Thank you for the review, Kathleen.

    Wolf Creek is certainly an interesting place to live and work.

    And Logan would agree with Troy's and your explanation about writer's focusing on their individual characters. As he stuffed tobacco into his pipe he would probably say something like, 'Elementary, ma'am!'

  7. LOL, Keith! For subjects of the Crown, both you and Doc Munro are positively overflowin' with Southern charm, kind sir. :-)

  8. This book starts out with a unique and fun premise--kept me reading straight through to the very end. Loved it!

  9. Hunting dinosaur bones might sound boring to some people -but not when you do it near Wolf Creek!

  10. Better late than never, I say! Just got back from my trip to West Virginia and wanted to pop in and say how much I enjoyed your review, Kathleen. This was a very exciting edition of the adventures of Wolf Creek!

  11. Better late than never, I say! Just got back from my trip to West Virginia and wanted to pop in and say how much I enjoyed your review, Kathleen. This was a very exciting edition of the adventures of Wolf Creek!