Thursday, March 5, 2015


                                                                   Author Jerry Guin

Even though WEST OF THE BIG RIVER: THE BANDIT has been out for a while, it is a book well worth reviewing.
I admire and like the way Western Author Jerry Guin writes.  He has a clean, no nonsense style that makes the message clear and the meaning of words and sentences shine.  He writes a well-researched book about the outlaw Sam Bass and he does it in a manner that can be read by all ages, young and old.  I respect his choice to describe adult situations in a manner that offends no one, yet remains clear as to the gritty seriousness of life.
Guin starts his book with Sam Bass as a helper in a jail.  It holds the outlaw Claude Rankin who that very day is going to hang for murder.  Bass, a fairly innocent young man, asks Rankin if he is afraid.  The response is no, and then the outlaw proceeds to calmly and elaborately describe to Bass what the hanging will be like.  Afterwards, he explains that he chose to live the life of an outlaw and, therefore, he has no regrets and is not afraid to die.  THAT sets the tone for this Western Fictioneers, West of the Big River, novel.
Despite the youthful Sam Bass being befriended by an honest sheriff, the reader begins to discern Sam’s dislike for the drudgery of hard work.  It isn’t that Bass is afraid or incapable of working hard, it is that he just wants an easier way of making a living.  Looking for fast money and a way of getting it, the young Sam Bass turns to card gambling and horse racing.  This leads to association with unsavory characters.
From horse racing, to a clever cattle rustling scheme from Texas to Kansas, to the Dakota gold strike at Deadwood, Sam Bass continues to set his footsteps toward the dangerous excitement of thievery.
Jerry Guin has a way with words that evokes clear images of living history, here’s an example:

 “It was a brisk, sunshiny October day when the foursome rode into Deadwood.  Sam figured the place was the grubbiest burg that he had ever laid eyes on.  It didn’t appear to be much of a town that was built in a gulch.  The middle of the single street was deep in mud with ditches, holes, manure, and tree stumps.  One and two-story, frame buildings snugged together on both sides of the roadway.”
Here is a further unique historical description of Deadwood:

“By nightfall they found out everything in this northern town was at least double or triple the price of what they were used to paying.  A sleeping cot in a large room full of snoring drunks cost a dollar a night.  A decent room cost up to five dollars a night as opposed to fifty cents to two dollars, depending on the quality, in Texas or Kansas.  When it came to food, fifty cents would buy a bowl of gruel or greasy stew, while a decent meal of meat, potatoes, and bread cost one to two dollars, whereas twenty-five cents to fifty cents was common for fare in cattle towns.  It cost a dollar a day just to feed and house a horse.  The high prices were merely the cause of high demand by the growing crowd of wide-eyed strangers coming to the gold rush.  At times during the day or night a thousand men or more crowded the streets and business establishments.  It was indeed a carnival atmosphere to merely sit and watch the activities up and down the street.  Freighters coming in to deliver goods and getting their wagon stuck in the muck on the street while teetotalers pointed and laughed, others would rush out to lend a hand to the stranded wagon.  Hammers banged in the clear morning air as carpenters worked at a frenzied pace in getting a new building erected, while nearby in the street, donkeys brayed and freighters urged on their teams with cussing commands.  This was Deadwood.”
And, there is a lot more to this book.  As time goes on, Sam Bass and the partners he meets up with fall on hard times.  The winter in Deadwood is cold, the prices high, and the mining and freighting he tries, fails miserably.  Bass resigns himself to petty stealing.  Then with five other men he robs a train and finds aboard thousands in gold coins.  The six men split up and travel away from the train robbery.

Sam Bass’s continuing adventures can best be left to the reader.  For certain, this is a finely researched historical piece of fiction written by one of the best and upcoming writers of the west.  Jerry Guin has a way with words and description.  I give it five stars.  Readers of all ages will devour it without qualm and come away knowledgeable in the way of a real life outlaw.

                                                        Reviewed by Charlie Steel


  1. Solid review, Charlie. Jerry Guin skillfully weaves a thread of realism throughout the story, underpinning it with fascinating historical facts. Your example of what room and board costs in Deadwood opposed to other frontier towns lends authenticity to the storyline.

  2. Charlie, what an excellent review of Jerry's book. The description of the town is very authentic and so interesting. I, too, am a great admirer of Jerry's writing style. Thanks for such a wonderful review of THE BANDIT...I'm going to need to figure out how to put at least 10 more hours in each day to read!

  3. Thanks Tom and Cheryl for commenting and for anyone else who has the time to discuss Jerry Guin's book. He is a good writer, this is a solid historical work, and deserves recognition.

  4. Reviews like this help readers in their choice of reading material. For anyone interested in the West and the people who populated it, this review is also a five star. Thank you. Doris McCraw/Angela Raines

  5. I am an admirer of Jerry's as well. He has a great straight-up, no nonsense style. It's kind of you to celebrate the work of your peers!

  6. Good review, Charlie. I have read and enjoyed several of Jerry Guin's novels. I like his writing and found The Bandit to be very informative. I particularly like the way he depicts him as a likeable rogue who had no real desire to hurt anyone. His partners he considered to be his brothers and he went to his grave refusing to betray his comrades.

  7. My thanks goes to Charlie Steel for writing this review.
    As far as I can tell Charlie, you do a great job at everything you write.
    I would also give credit due to Livia Washburn and the Western Fictioneers for giving me the inspiration and opportunity to have The Bandit as one of The West of The Big River series.
    Thank you all for the comments,
    Jerry Guin

  8. Great review Charlie. Jerry did a great job capturing Sam Bass in this entertaining western. A great read for all.

  9. Hi, How might I get a new western novel reviewed?