Monday, February 17, 2014

Review Roundup: Requiem for a Bandit

West of the Big River: The Bandit
By Jerry Guin
The Western Fictioneers Library, November 2013
$8.99paperback, ISBN 1493779591
$2.99 Kindle, ASIN B00GXJHOFG
$2.99 most other e-formats, ISBN 9781311367549
185 pages

Sam Bass did a lot of living in a few short years. Initially a footloose orphan mentored by a Texas sheriff he called Dad, during the last five years of his life Bass evolved from disillusioned cowpoke through gambler to lightly seasoned robber of stages and trains.

Jerry Guin presents a semi-fictionalized account of Bass’s transformation in West of the Big River: The Bandit.

Unlike the other books in the West of the Big River series, The Bandit doesn’t drop a historical figure into a fictional adventure. Guin’s tale sticks closely to the historical record and surrounds Bass with known associates. Within that framework, though, the legend of Sam Bass gets some meat on its bones.

Texans still tend to view Bass with a Robin Hood-like reverence: The outlaw stole for a living, but according to most reports, he was generous and personable. Folks couldn’t help liking him.

That is the Bass Guin presents, embellishing what is known with what easily could have been. Na├»ve in the beginning, Bass gradually gains confidence after falling in with a disreputable crowd. Under the presumed tutelage of an opportunistic drifter, Bass goes about becoming a legendary criminal in a somewhat lackadaisical fashion. He doesn’t emerge as a leader — and even then, a rather aimless one — until shortly before his death at age twenty-seven as the result of an accidental shootout.

The Bandit only modestly fictionalizes the legend of a Texas outlaw. Those who already know the story will enjoy the refresher and the ways in which Guin puts words in the mouths of historical figures. For those unfamiliar with Sam Bass, The Bandit will entertain while it educates.

Kathleen Rice Adams is a Texan, a voracious reader, a professional journalist, and an author. She received a review copy of West of the Big River: The Bandit 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.


  1. I love books of this nature. This sounds like an interesting story. Thanks again for hitting my pocket book where it is already bruised. (Grin) Doris

  2. LOL, Doris! You're more than welcome, ma'am. As the saying goes, "misery loves company." ;-)


  3. Kathleen,

    I'm going to enjoy this story, I can tell already--just by this review of yours. So many "legends" surround these historical figures, it's hard to tell the truth from fiction in many cases, but from your account here, it sounds as if Jerry has taken the story as it was and made it a "fictionalized reality" that is going to be highly entertaining!

  4. That's exactly what Jerry did, Cheryl -- and he did a good job of it, too.

    I've enjoyed all the books in this series. The authors did a fine job of breathing life into real people in way that's seldom seen. :-)

  5. I read that Kathleen and thank you for saying so. I find that in writing fiction it is best to not upset the history of an individual as widely known as Sam Bass whether he was a robin hood of the old west or just a plain old outlaw is a debate that won't be soon settled. I just penned what could have happened along the way.
    Thank you for doing the review.

  6. Kathleen,

    So good of you to review these WEST OF THE BIG RIVER books.

    I'm sure Jerry's book is well researched and well written. I look forward to reading it.


  7. The Sam Bass debate will go on forever, and Jerry adds some more fuel to the flames. Great book.

    For the record, I'm on the Sam Bass was just another robber and murderer side. Another outlaw who became a legend in his time, and even more of one after his death.

  8. God review, Kathleen. I cannot resist the Robin Hood association and look forward to reading the novel. Jerry Guin always gives good value.


  9. I have only read one Guin novel, "Drover's Bounty" and have vowed to read many more. "Requiem for a Bandit" sounds like a great place to get started on that vow. Thanks for the fine review, Kathleen.
    Jim Meals

  10. Thanks for the comments ladies and I'm reaching deep into my wallet as well but this series is worth it. So far I have them all.
    And gentlemen,
    Charlie, Jim, Keith and Jim. Thank you for your words of encouragement.

  11. Jim Griffin, I believe you're right on the money about the debate going on forever. At this point, I'm not sure how much it matters whether he was a Robin Hood sort or just a plain ol' robber. Jerry actually presents him as a bit of both. That's the extraordinary thing, I think, about the novel: No matter on which side of the Sam Bass debate one resides, Jerry's story manages to strike a balance that doesn't throw the reader out of the story.

    Bass's criminal career was extremely short. Had his first train robbery not netted the gang so much money (reportedly about $60K) and had Bass's share of the loot not mysteriously disappeared, he might not be remembered as well as he is. Some in Denton believe a good chunk of change is still hidden in a cave or thicket up there in North Texas. (Jerry's endnote in The Bandit is interesting in that regard, and personally, I think his proposition may be correct. :-) )