Monday, July 14, 2014

Review Roundup: Outrage and a Family Feud

By Kathleen Rice Adams

Outrage at Blanco
By Bill Crider
Brash Books, September 2013
$9.89 paperback, ISBN 1941298257
$4.99 Kindle, ASIN B00KAJX6DE
304 pages

Raped and left for dead, newlywed Ellie Taine has not yet come to grips with her grief when her husband is murdered by the same derelicts who destroyed her comfortable, if dull, existence. Dead in spirit, Ellie embarks on a single-minded quest for revenge accompanied by a physically dying former Texas Ranger turned wealthy rancher whose self-involved son also died at the hands of the hoodlums.

Bearing many of the hallmarks of his work in crime fiction, author Bill Crider’s Outrage at Blanco might best be described as a “noir western.” Cynicism, fatalism, and moral ambiguity abound. Ellie’s transformation from earnest farm wife to remorseless killer is chilling, but her desire for retribution is justified. Even though she never overtly engages in introspection about her decision, on some level she must be aware she abandoned her humanity in exchange for reprisal. Once her dark side emerges, there’s no putting the genie back in the bottle.

In vowing to exact revenge on the despicable sociopaths seeks, Ellie stands as a proxy for anyone who’s ever been wronged. Readers will worry about their own moral compass as they root for Ellie to catch and dispatch the callous outlaws before their trail of rape, robbery, murder, and mayhem extends any farther.

As the fugitives turn on each other and die in horrible ways, readers likely will revel in Ellie’s personal brand of justice even as they mourn the waste of human potential embodied by her victims. In the final analysis, Ellie’s quest represents a Pyrrhic victory.

Crider’s ability to turn good into honorable evil is nothing short of scary. Outrage at Blanco is bloody and disturbing, not least because it forces readers to confront the ambiguity of their own nature. On several levels, the story works well: as entertainment for those who enjoy grueling, violent adventures, and as an unsettling study of human nature for those who savor a deeper, more psychologically complex read.

The Prodigal
By Chuck Tyrell
Western Trail Blazer, December 2013
$0.99 Kindle, ASIN B00KAJX6DE
$0.99 most other e-formats, ISBN 9781458137166
54 pages

A lawman friend asks for Ness Havelock’s help in tracking down an outlaw gang wreaking havoc in the vicinity. The kicker? The lawman’s son is a member of the gang.

Tense and riveting from beginning to end, Chuck Tyrell’s The Prodigal is one of those stories readers won’t be able to put down. Thankfully, it’s short…although reaching the end is a bit of a disappointment. The writing is so tight and enjoyable, readers may wish the tale could go on forever.

The twist at the end is astonishing, sad, and wholly fitting. Read this one, if only to watch how a master draws readers in on the first page and never lets them go.

Kathleen Rice Adams is a Texan, a voracious reader, a professional journalist, and an author. She received review copies of Outrage at Blanco 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 are for convenience only; they do not produce affiliate revenue.


  1. Thank you, Kathleen. The Prodigal festered in my brain for a long time before I actually wrote it. Glad you enjoyed it, even though it is not a very happy story. Ness Havelock, besides being the hero in his own book--Pitchfork Justice--often shows up in other stories as a Deputy U.S. Marshal.

    1. Chuck, I so enjoyed PITCHFORK JUSTICE that when I found this short story starring PITCHFORK'S protagonist, I had to read it. Ness Havelock is one of those unforgettable characters who sticks with a person long after the story's over. More, please! :-)

  2. Kathleen, these both look like very good reads! Thanks for showcasing them today and letting us know about them. I wonder how you are able to cram so much reading into your 24 hour days, lady! You're amazing!

    1. Okie, OUTRAGE AT BLANCO is a very disturbing book -- or at least it was for me. (Wish fulfillment? Maybe I'm eager to pursue some justice of my own. ;-) ) The story is very interesting in the way it blends bloody adventure with psychological drama. Even if authors don't enjoy violent reads, I recommend they at least take a look at OUTRAGE for craft issues. :-)

      THE PRODIGAL is another great study for authors. Charlie has a remarkable talent for making a compact tale seem much bigger. The story also is an enjoyable read for anyone who's encountered the character Ness Havelock before. That man is fascinating. :-)

  3. Kathleen,
    You have done it again...dang it. All joking aside, what great reads these two seem to be. Summer is a busy time, but the list is growing for the winter cocooning and I for one look forward to your reviews. They allow me to pick and choose, but I will say, they are mostly choose.

    1. Doris, I have the same problem. I have read work by and met so many excellent western authors since early last year (when I began reviewing books on the blog) that I honestly cannot keep up with everything. I never thought I'd say this, but I'm suffering from an embarrassment of riches in the western fiction realm. :-D All things considered, though, having too many books is a much nicer place to be than having too few. :-)

      It's often said that any writer who doesn't read should be shot. I don't think I'm danger of facing a firing squad anytime soon. ;-)


  4. Wow, both of these sound like great reads, but OUTRAGE really intrigues me. Looks like a story you read then binge on Disney movies just to clean the brain. :)

    Thanks for the great reviews, Tex!

    1. LOL, Rustler! Yep, that would be an apt description of OUTRAGE. No syrup in that book at all. It's a good read, though. Ellie is one tough woman!