Monday, November 25, 2013
Review Roundup: Christmas Comes to Wolf Creek
By Ford Fargo
Western Fictioneers, November 2013
$9.99 paperback, ISBN 149372651X
$2.99 Kindle, ASIN B00GFEZA5A
$2.99 most other e-formats, ISBN 9781310352843
In little more than a year, the Wolf Creek series has found its legs and become the sort of popular phenomenon typically found in graphic novels and the Saturday movie serials of yore. By producing roughly one volume per month since August 2012, the Western Fictioneers who compose the house pseudonym known as Ford Fargo have set a standard: Readers are accustomed to a regular diet of high adventure in an 1871 Kansas cattle town. That kind of prolific production can be exhausting for authors.
Fortunately, Western Fictioneers is growing, and so is the talent pool writing as Fargo. Wolf Creek Book 9: A Wolf Creek Christmas is the group’s second anthology and its first Christmas-themed edition. The book introduces a host of new characters and new voices, many of whom will become series regulars.
In Jory Sherman’s “The Last Free Trapper,” mountain man Roman Hatchett faces the end of an era, unwilling to change but unable to prevent the disappearance of the only life he knows. The character-driven story is rife with subtle symbolism. “A Savior is Born” by Meg Mims introduces Phoebe Wright, a middle-aged widow who comes to Wolf Creek in search of her niece only to find the girl in a less-than-savory occupation. A moral crusade undoubtedly lies on the horizon.
Jacquie Rogers introduces dairy farmer Gib Norwood and his mixed-race half-brothers, Peter and Paul, in “Twas the Fight Before Christmas.” Departing from her usual humor-laced style, Rogers plays a Christmas Eve shootout at the farm fairly straight, although a houseful of snowbound hookers and newborn calves is inherently amusing. Her story and Jim Griffin’s “Renewal of Faith” introduce multiple new characters. Griffin hangs his tale on Ben Tolliver, a Wolf Creek resident who’s been around since Book 1. The Texas Ranger-turned-hostler is no stranger to violent confrontations, but he really shoehorns himself into a tight spot when he befriends two Irish Catholic newcomers. The Yanks and Rebs in town may tolerate one another, but apparently none of them are willing to abide either Irish or Catholics.
Troy Smith and Jerry Guin stick with characters Wolf Creek fans will recognize. Black-Seminole scout Charlie Blackfeather and an army patrol deal with Indian mischief on Christmas Eve in Smith’s “A Kiowa Christmas Gift.” For hardened loner Charlie, an unexpected invitation is the most difficult part of the adventure. In Guin’s “That Time of Year,” white-hat deputy Quint Croy shows his diplomatic chops when he helps two young lovers avoid the crossfire between their feuding bosses.
Like the previous anthology (Wolf Creek Book Six: Hell on the Prairie), A Wolf Creek Christmas is an enjoyable departure from the series’ usual collaborative novels. A couple of caveats apply to A Wolf Creek Christmas, though.
First, several stories do not close on tidy “peace on Earth, goodwill to men” endings … but this is, after all, Wolf Creek. Just because a door is shut doesn’t mean someone won’t fling it open and start shooting.
Second, although each story in A Wolf Creek Christmas stands alone as a self-contained tale, readers will find copious references to characters and incidents from previous novels in the series. Those who have not followed the series from the beginning will stumble across a couple of big spoilers in this book.
Kathleen Rice Adams is a Texan, a voracious reader, a professional journalist, and an author. She received a review copy of Wolf Creek Book 9 from the publisher. Her opinions are her own and are neither endorsed nor necessarily supported by Western Fictioneers or individual members of the organization. Links in the review are for convenience only; they do not produce affiliate revenue.