Thursday, February 14, 2019

Blood on the Sun by Thomas Thompson


The thin man laughed, a high wild sound. “Where I come from, punk,” he said to Ted, “you wouldn’t live to be as tall as you think you are.”
A good story from the rock-solid Thomas Thompson. Here we have a man called “Preacher” who is not exactly that. The tale is a bit bifurcated as the fist half is the usual superlative work from Thompson, but it seems to go a bit formulaic in the second half.
It doesn’t stop it from being a good read, but Thompson, being a fine writer, has delivered more.
Here, I measure him against himself.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Grandfather Out of the Past by Noel M. Loomis


He looked at her, trying to decide what hunger was. Was it a gnawing in a man’s stomach, or was it a lonesomeness of the heart, or was it, sometimes, a thing that ate a man’s brain from the inside, like that which showed in the yes of Quahuahacante [Dead Hide]?
This book is steeped in Comanche culture, steeped so deeply it resonates with an authenticity that mere Internet searches would put to shame.
As a Comanche-phile myself [I have been learning the language for the past three years] veracity can be found on every page of this tale of a warrior past his prime but still a warrior in his heart and in his ethics.
A mature and authoritative tale.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

A Town Named Hate by John Prebble


Martha Boyd sat in a corner during the town meeting. Now and then she looked across the room to Jason, and once he smiled to her reassuringly, and the smile was a bridge between them across the smoke and the heat and the hate in the room.
A stunner!
A story of a small town with forgotten promise, a long-dead tragedy and a mistake to latch vengeful hopes on.
Insight to burn, atmosphere that seethes, and a plot that boils start to finish.
Masterful!

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

The Captives by Elmore Leonard


Brennan jumped down and rolled Rintoon over gently, holding his head off the ground. He looked at the motionless form and then at Chink. “He’s dead.”
Chink stood with his legs apart and looked down at Brennan indifferently. “Sure he is.”
“You didn’t have to kill him.”
Chink shrugged. “I would’ve sooner, or later.”
“Why?”
“That’s the way it is.”
That passage highlights Dutch Leonard’s easy laconic way with dialogue, postures, small gestures. He spends no time on inner this or subconscious that, and yet his work never feels formulaic. His men and women are fully formed creatures whose lives are expressed in actions or the small gestures that take the place of thwarted actions.
This story was made into a good film, The Tall T, but for my money, the source is smart and rugged head-and-shoulders above even that fine work.
An excellent story.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Three-Ten to Yuma by Elmore Leonard


Scallen glanced at the man across the street and then to Jim Kidd. “Come here.” He nodded to the window. “Tell me who your friend is over there.”
Kidd half rose and leaned over looking out the window, then sat down again. “Charlie Prince.”
“Somebody else just went for help.”
“Charlie doesn’t need help.”
Dutch Leonard has been manufacturing smooth, cool, laconic prose since the very beginning of his career. Crime or Western, either way, you’re most likely in for a fine ride.
This classic story is probably familiar to most since we’ve had two film versions of it.
It cooks along well and is marked by Leonard’s spare style and his easy insight into assessing the figure in front of you. Few match him for those moments of reading a character’s make-up in small actions.
A fine story indeed.

Monday, February 4, 2019

The Language of the Railroader by Ramon F. Adams


Fish: To dislodge a tramp from the rods by dragging a piece of metal tied to a string under the car to make it rebound from the ties.
Ramon F. Adams, one of the great historians of the west provides this companion piece to his book Western Words [also reviewed on this blog.]
It is chockful of old railroad and tramp/hobo lingo.
Historians of the Old West, writers, or simply the railroad curious will find much to enjoy in a browse of this fine volume.
Or as a railroader might say, it has its head cut in and never shows the white feather!

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Isley’s Stranger by Henry Wilson Allen


He rode a mule. He was middling tall, middling spare, middling young. He wore a soft dark curly beard. His bedroll was one thready army blanket, wound round a coffee can, tin cup, plate, razor, camp ax, Bible, copy of the Rubaiyat, a mouth harp, some other few treasures of like necessity in the wilderness.
This is one odd tale. On one hand, our stranger is an unusually competent and confident greenhorn whose adventures and calm cool nature in the face of opposition are a delight.
On the other, well, I don’t want to spoil this one for those who plan on reading. Allow me to say the resolution of this stranger’s identity is like nothing I’ve encountered in the genre before.
I’m not sure I’m fully on board for the “reveal” but I’d be a liar if I said I didn’t enjoy the journey to that point.

Blood on the Sun by Thomas Thompson

The thin man laughed, a high wild sound. “Where I come from, punk,” he said to Ted, “you wouldn’t live to be as tall as you think you ...