There is no work harder than cutting a grave. Though the rain had softened the ground, it was a few hot hours of taking turns at the pick and shovel before we had the five holes dug. The bodies we had gathered were lying under blankets. When it came time to put them down and rebury Fee I didn’t want the boy there, I shooed him away. We stood waiting while he walked back, turning every few yards to look at us. He finally squatted down at the edge of the flats, not going as far as the town, I suppose, because the buzzards were all down in the street now eating from the dead roan.
That picture of bleakness gives nothing away in this masterful first novel from Mr. Doctorow. The novel starts bleak on page one and only gives hints of sunshine here and there throughout.
In essence it is the story of the death of a town, the titled “Hard Times,” its painful re-birth and aftermath of that re-birth.
It is a spare novel, a mere 200 pages, written in an easy manner that puts many a “literary Western” to shame, but make no mistake, this easy manner is no formula work—this is a piece of art.
I leave us with another extract.
Now the saying is common that Sam Colt made men equal. But if it is true then our town wouldn’t have burned up in the rain; instead that Bad Man would have been buried with due honors and a proper notice sent to the Territory Office. He would have had a hole in his chest, or his back, and the one who shot him would have Avery standing him a drink and maybe redheaded Flo and Molly smiling his way. Colt gave every man a gun, but you have to squeeze the trigger for yourself.