Monday, March 24, 2014

Review Roundup: Rio Concho

The Rio Concho Series
By Alfred Wallon
Piccadilly Publishing

Rio Concho #1: Showdown in Abilene (ASIN: B00CJ89IZY, April 2013, 60 pages, $0.99 Kindle)

Rio Concho #2: Gunfighter’s Legacy (ASIN: B00DX5YMDU, July 2013, 59 pages, $0.99 Kindle)

Rio Concho #3: Kiowa Rebellion (ASIN: B00IOMNMV0, February 2014, 61 pages, $0.99 Kindle)

Turning even well-behaved drovers loose in nineteenth-century Abilene after a cross-country cattle drive is a recipe for trouble. Add the still-wet-behind-the-ears son of a powerful Texas rancher and a gang of thugs with designs on other people’s money, and something’s bound to explode.

It does, in Alfred Wallon’s Showdown in Abilene, the first in the Rio Concho series of western novellas.

Wallon’s cowboys are basically good guys, if more than a little rough around the edges. They really do want to stay out of trouble. Trouble dearly loves them, though, following them around like an adoring puppy. For three books (so far), the men of the Rancho Bravo in Texas get into one scrape after another. Through dust-ups with townies, Indian attacks provoked by outside forces, and sundry duels to the death with villains of all stripes, the Rancho Bravo cowhands and those they embrace as friends stand like pillars of granite, ready to face whatever the wild landscape throws at them next.

The Rio Concho series calls to mind both Karl May’s Eurowesterns and the American pulps of the mid-twentieth century: pure escapist entertainment based on enduring romantic notions and high on drama. Wallon, who is German, grew up glued to classic western TV shows made in America. His stories reflect that tradition. They’re different from the western fiction written by many contemporary Americans. That’s not a bad thing. The author has a finely tuned sense of — and an undeniable reverence for — the kinds of stories most Americans of a certain age read and watched growing up, in which the residents of the West were as big and bold as the territory they roamed, if not always entirely realistic. There’s nostalgic charm in Wallon’s West.

Some caveats: The stories were written in German and translated into English; consequently, some artifacts of translation can be distracting. In a few spots, German words slip through. Perhaps there were no literal English translations. Likewise, the occasional dip into German grammar — which sometimes differs from American grammar in the relative placement of the various parts of speech — can lead to unintended amusement. In other spots, primarily in dialogue, the colloquialisms I suspect Wallon intended didn’t translate well. A few anachronisms (“red-light district” for example) may bother history purists, and Texans may chafe at the apparent relocation of the historic Brasada region from far southern Texas to West Texas. (In fairness, Texas is an enormous state. Its geography confuses even those of us who live here.)

None of the minor idiosyncrasies destroy the read, and they certainly don’t diminish the author’s palpable love for his subject. The camaraderie among western historical fiction writers and readers increases when one realizes how the American West continues to capture the imagination of people worldwide. Thank goodness it does.

Admirers of classic pulp westerns will find much to enjoy in the Rio Concho series. At about sixty pages each, the stories are short and easily digested in one sitting. Full of action and quirky characters, the books continue an honorable tradition. Kudos to Wallon for keeping a disappearing art form alive.

Kathleen Rice Adams is a Texan, a voracious reader, a professional journalist, and an author. She received review copies of the first three books in the Rio Concho series from the author. 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. Kathleen,

    A very careful and polite review. I spent seven years in Germany, (in both the East and the West---many years ago) and I can still speak a halting German.

    I wondered about Alfred Wallon and thanks for explaining.


  2. Give me French, Spanish, or Italian, and I can hold my own. German? Not so much. Partially, I think that's because, both literally and metaphorically, German arose within an entirely different framework from the so-called romance languages based on Latin. (I'm fascinated by the differences and similarities between languages, especially where they intersect with aspects like culture, politics, and religion.)

    I understand Karl May remains a literary icon in Germany. His books, and the movies based on them, provide interesting perspective on how people in other countries perceived America's 19th century. :-)

  3. I love to read books by about the United States written by authors in other countries, it gives a new perspective on how we are perceived. This sounds like a homage to a past we never had, but wished we really did. I'll have to check them out. Doris

  4. Doris, that's an excellent way to put both concepts. One of the things I appreciate about the pulps of 1950s and '60s is the way they presented the Wild West in bolder, grander terms than what probably existed, thereby speaking to some adventurous, romantic part of every reader. "The past we wish we'd had." LOVE THAT! :-)

  5. Kathleen, excellent review, as always. I am going to get these and give them a read--how can you go wrong for .99? If nothing else, I want to see some of the writing style you spoke of. I always think how hard it would be to have a book translated into a language that had its own idiomatic expressions and "lingo". I suspect the final result might be a very different read from the original.


  6. These sound like the kind of books a character of mine would write. She heads out west with her family to gather material for a series of western dime novels featuring her famous detective. Of course, everyone assumes the author is a man... just as most of her readers assume there is more fact than fiction in her stories.

  7. Great minds think alike! I have a review of SHOWDOWN IN ABILENE on my blog today. I really enjoyed it and look forward to reading the other Rio Concho books.

  8. Cheryl, that's kind of my thought about the price. How can you go wrong at 99 cents? The covers are worth the price all by themselves. Really interesting artwork -- makes me wish the books were in print!

    The translation thing is intriguing, too. I've had to translate news articles written in Spain-Spanish, Italian, and French for publication in English. Though the same ideas come across, the resulting English versions are different in many little ways. In German, hyphens crop up in what seem like odd places to native English speakers, and all sorts of words get run together in the strangest ways into much longer words that mean something completely different. Idioms are particularly difficult to translate so they make sense. I can't imagine translating fiction -- especially historical western fiction, which uses so many figurative words and phrases.

    Ali, y'all Canadians are another tough-to-translate bunch. I'm constantly trying to figure out what y'all are trying to say. ;-)

    Sounds like you're working on a good story. Hurry up! If it's got "penny dreadfuls" in it, I'm all over it. :-)

    James, now that is a weird coincidence. Do read the others in the series. If you liked the first one, you'll enjoy the others, too. Billy Calhoun, the rancher's son in Showdown in Abilene, plays a big role in the second book. He's grown up a bit -- but not much -- between the two stories. This is a true series: The characters who survive keep showing up. :-D

  9. First of all let me express my sincere thanks to Kathleen for the excellent book review.

    I must admit that I wrote all these novels while I thought of the HIGH CHAPARRAL TV series. This was and still is my all time favorite TV western series and was the reason why I started writing westerns in the early 80´s.

    I was alwayws hooked an westerns, but I NEVER loved Karl May. Most of the German people think that this has been reality of the Wild West. But in my opnion he just told fairytales and nothing else.

    I will start working on the translation of book 4 in the RIO CONCHO series very soon. But it might take some time. It´s not easy for a native German, but I will do my best so that you can enjoy further novels. Book 4, by the way, is called GRUBLINE RIDERS.

    Best Regards

    Alfred Wallon

  10. Alfred, I'm curious: When reading novels written in English that have been translated to German, do you ever find yourself wondering about the author's original words? I suspect quite a few nuances get lost in translation, going either direction (German to English or English to German).

    Karl May remains controversial 100 years after his death. His fiction has been soundly criticized for lack of verisimilitude. I always found it interesting that at some point, he either lost the distinction between reality and fantasy (he claimed to have lived the adventures in his books) or intentionally lied as a marketing tactic. Which do you think was closer to the truth? Was he a con man or slightly off his rocker?

  11. @ Kathleen:

    About 30 years ago many American western novels had been translated and published ovber here in Germany. Louis L´Amour, Elmer Kelton, John Benteen and many others. At that time it was hard to get the originals. But translation into German language shortened many things.

    While I am translating my novels from German into English ( and this is real hard work, because I am no native speaker ), I must change a few sentences and expressions. There is a great difference between corresponding in English language and in writing fiction novels. But anyway - I just WANT this! And I will do my best that it entertains the readers.

    I started reading westerns when I was 7 years old - now I am 56, so a lot of time has passed. But one thing has never changed: my love for this genre. And now that my novels are published by the folks from Piccadilly Publishing, it´s just as if my dreams become reality.

    As far as Karl May is concerned: his heroes were like gods. They never failed, and they seemed to be super heroes in my opinion. But his books are still popular, but not for the younger generation. I read May´s books, but I never felt the fascination of the Old West.

    Regards from Germany


  12. Good job Kathleen, as usual. I feel like the fish that just bit into a night crawler and found myself hooked. These sound interesting, educational, and a fun experience. I like the cover. I believe I'll have to take a look...take a read and recommend your blog to some German fans of my book. Rod

  13. Thanks, Rod! I'm sure Alfred will appreciate the recommendation, and I'll bet he'll do the same for you. :-)

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