An enjoyable western novel written in the classical style –
Will Connors is struggling to hold together a failing farm; his wife has died, his son has gone, he’s not without enemies and he’s dealing with the after-effects of a debilitating accident. It’s a life of toil which doesn’t allow for very much pleasure, and he’s in danger of becoming embittered until a chance acquaintance wanders back into his life and everything begins to change. The problem, however, is that John Anderson has a price on his head – and, very soon, Will and John find themselves desperately concealing more than one dangerous secret.
Review by Gerry Burnie
A brief overview of the books I’ve reviewed will reveal that I like westerns, especially those written in the classic style, and here’s another one: End of the Trail by Jane Elliot [Manifold Press, February 23, 2013].
I was first attracted to it by Robert Plotz’s cover image—two men riding hard with unfurled lariats in their hands. It is evocative of the old ‘penny westerns,’ with lots of action portrayed; however, the only problem being that it has little to do with the story except the western theme.
The story itself is set in the old west, although no specific time period is mentioned. The main character, Will Connors, is a lonely rancher: hard working; honest; and mildly handicapped (game leg). He is also a widower whose son has gone east, and so he is left to work the ranch on his own.
He first meets John Anderson three years prior when Anderson rides onto his property, wounded. Connors and his wife nurse him back to health, but it is only after he leaves that they learn that Anderson is an outlaw. In the meantime Connors’ wife dies, and John Anderson unexpectedly reappears looking for sanctuary. In need of both the help and company, Connors consents, and the two men form a friendship that ultimately evolves into a sexual relationship as well.
I like the pace the author uses to bring it about. These are mature men, after all, and Will is anything but impetuous, so there is no hopping into the sack at the clank of a belt buckle. Neither are there any moments of high drama: i.e. shootouts, stampedes, or murderous villains. There is one scheming neighbour who is trying to for Will into a sale, but no range war erupts. Which brings me around to the blurb.
Story blurbs are important because these help the shopper decide whether the plot is interesting enough to invest money into it. Consequently, the writer usually gives it their best shot with a handful of colourful adjectives and superlatives. However, one must also be careful not to over do it either unintentionally or intentionally. In this case, while the blurb was well written, I felt the story didn’t quite reach the dramatic level suggested by it.
Mind you, I hasten to add that I was quite satisfied with the story as it was.
All-in-all, I feel justified in recommending End of the Trail for your reading enjoyment. Four bees.
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A short story celebration of the classic Western tale.
Story blurb: Clete Benteen was a kid one minute and a man the next. The son of a sharpshooter, he grew up when his pa was brought home across the back of a horse, back-shot. Making a place for himself among hard cowboys, Clete must use all the skill he has to provide for his family and to find his Pa’s killer. But is he tough enough to survive?
Kindle edition – short story – 121 KB – .99¢
Review by Gerry Burnie
Although “The Sharpshooter” by Kit Prate [Western Trail Blazer, 2011] is not a GBLT story, or a particularly long read, nonetheless I liked it for its adherence to the classic Western genre; i.e. a deep sense of justice, stoic determination, and a clear distinction between “good guys” and “bad guys.”
As the blurb tells us, young Clete Benteen (14 years old) is forced into manhood to support his widowed mother and fellow siblings, as well as avenge his father’s murder. This brings him into contact with his father’s employer, a powerful rancher by the name and style of Judge Terril, and a group of sinister, hired guns that Terril employs to enforce his power.
What makes Clete equal to the others in some way is his skill as a sharpshooter; a skill he has both learned and inherited from his dead father. Other traits he has either learned of inherited are his fierce independence and self assuredness.
I bought into his sharpshooter’s skill because one of my main characters in an upcoming novel (“The Brit, Kid Cupid, and Petunia”) is a teenage shootist, but I was a little more questioning about Clete’s precociousness. Or, maybe it was the willingness of the adults—Terril especially—to let him get away with it. It is, however, only a minor quibble.
As the story moves along there is a nice build up of tension, especially with his capture by the bad guys, and the contest of wills as his captivity continues under sometimes cruel and abusive conditions. After all, it wouldn’t be a true western if the good guys had a ‘cake walk’ of it.
Altogether this is a great little read for the money, and worth every cent of it. Four and one-half bees.
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