The Branch and the Scaffold
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The Branch and the Scaffold

3.08 of 5 stars 3.08  ·  rating details  ·  95 ratings  ·  22 reviews
When Judge Isaac Parker first arrived in Fort Smith, Arkansas, the town had thirty saloons and one bank. Inheriting a corrupt court and a lawless territory roughly the size of Great Britain, he immediately put the residents on notice by publicly hanging six convicted felons at one time. For the next two decades, his stern and implacable justice brought law and order to the...more
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published April 27th 2009 by Forge Books (first published January 1st 2009)
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Mike (the Paladin)
For twenty one years Judge Isaac Parker was the presiding judge for the western district court of Arkansas including the Oklahoma and Indian territories. It was an area a little bigger than Great Britain. Appointed in 1875 he did his best to bring law and order to a land he saw as sorely needing it. And it probably did. The first case he presided over was of a young man accused of murder. He murdered another young man in the Indian territory, for his boots. They were very nice boots. The boots h...more
Many years ago I visited the tourist trap at Hanging Judge Parker's courtroom and gallows in Fort Smith, Arkansas. I'm a big fan of Mr. Estleman. This book sometimes reads like a history and not a novel with a narrative arc. The descriptions and history are rich. Fans of Westerns should like the background information on many of the colorful characters coming up in the genre.
If I weren't the goal oriented sort of person who cannot stop reading a book once I've started... However, being who I am, I kept reading. Although this book is fiction, you might not know it. The author claims that the story is exciting enough that it doesn't need much dialogue or character development to be interesting, but that is exactly what this book was lacking. There was no character development save for 2 men, the judge and the executioner, and even so, one was not very interested due t...more
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Jul 03, 2011 Lisa (Harmonybites) rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: No One
Recommended to Lisa (Harmonybites) by: The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Ultimate Reading List
Loren Estleman was on a recommendation list I've been reading through for both his hard-boiled detective fiction and his Westerns. I read his mystery The Left-Handed Dollar and by and large was impressed with his snappy dialogue and evocative prose. So when I saw this book, one of his westerns with a blurb boasting the author is a "five-time Spur-Award winner" I expected something impressive. Estleman also picked a fascinating real-life figure to center this novel on--the infamous hanging judge,...more
Appointed by President Ulysses S. Grant as the presiding judge of the US District Court for the District of Arkansas (headquartered in Fort Smith, Arkansas), Judge Isaac Parker began his term in May, 1875 which terminated 21 years later in 1896. His jurisdiction extended into the Indian Nation as well (mainly Oklahoma territory). A strict adherent of the enforcement of federal law, Judge Parker presided over 13,500 cases (criminal and civil) including some 344 capital cases (potentially involvin...more
Nov 05, 2012 Gene rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: own
A rather 19th century book with more narrative, exposition and description than one finds in most novels, but the character sketches are finely drawn, you almost feel you're in the heads of the characters.

As historical novels go, this has what I think has to be a nearly unique methodology-all the characters are real, historical personages, except for the occasional person in the crowd 'everyman.' The only other exception was the author combining two characters of similar names who performed a si...more
It's an odd feeling to read a historical novel about one's own ancestor, and a notorious one at that. In the last quarter of the 19th century, Isaac Charles Parker was the Federal Judge for the 8th District of the U.S., which encompassed part of Arkansas and the Indian reservations of eastern Oklahoma. During his tenure, he became known (deservedly so) as "The Hanging Judge"--the gallows outside his office window became known as "Parker's Tears", and he has been portrayed in a number of books an...more
A good series of stories, and the attention to detail in the historical research is quite good. Makes for a good read, although the story seems to lose its center on occasion, paying less attention to what's going on with Judge Parker and more attention to those around him.

But the side stories are good, even though they can make it a touch confusing when you're reading through. Not to mention that it can be hard to keep track of some of the marshalls when they change over Parker's tenure as judg...more
This book takes a look at Fort Smith's hanging judge, Isaac Parker, and the criminals, lawyers and law men who came before his bench. While placed in the fiction section of the library, it's not embellished at all and uses factual accounts. Some of the dialogue is imagined, but quite realistic. Well written, but not completely chronological, it was interesting to learn about the outlaws and the justice they met in the judge's jurisdiction, especially if you enjoyed "True Grit."
This book is a monograph trying to masquerade as a novel. Very little dialogue, no character development, nothing but narrative makes a monograph. Estleman should've kept to the nonfiction, not try and hybridize the forms.
I found the authors writing style a bit hard to follow what with all the many names and nicknames of the many characters involved, but overall found the book to be entertaining in an informative manor. Those that liked this book may want to try " Zeke and Ned " by Larry McMurtry which is another version of Ned Christie's fight with the white man.
The biggest thing this book is lacking (besides excitement) is a sense of place. I'm from Arkansas, I learned about Judge Parker in school, I've been to the historic site in Ft. Smith. Yet I felt so disconnected from the events and people and, more importantly, the landscape in this particular book. It could have taken place anywhere and nowhere.
I could not tell if the author was trying to write historical fiction, or wanted to write a biography, but could not find enough factual information. Western fans will probably be disappointed. Credit must be given for the notes on the author’s research and a nice annotated bibliography at the end of the book.
Not very well written. Needs severe editing by one of my mean high school English teachers. Cliche metaphors and dangling modifiers through out.
However, it was a very interesting subject so I kept reading. It is about a hanging judge in the late 19th century Indian territory -- not something that I knew much about.
Lynn Kearney
I usually like his stuff but didn't realize this wasn't a thriller but more a history of the justice system in part of the old west. Interesting, because there was lots I didn't know, but not great.
Jay Hops
A lot of people here seem to not find this book as compelling as I did. It's full of great characters and though its choppy, it's really interesting!
For a book in a plot-driven genre and a real-life subject with a compelling story, this was flat, disjointed, and disappointing.
Would've been better as a history book. In fact, I'm intrigued about this character and might track down a nonfiction account.
Jul 04, 2009 Martha is currently reading it
Shelves: tried-to-read
This book is by the same author as "Master Executioner" which I believe is an extraordinary book.
Great Historical Fiction story of Hanging Judge Parker in Fort Smith.
this wasnt really about parker, was it estleman? beautiful title though...
Catherine marked it as to-read
Aug 31, 2014
Erin Delgrosso
Erin Delgrosso is currently reading it
Aug 03, 2014
Mike marked it as to-read
Jul 25, 2014
Debbie marked it as to-read
Jun 24, 2014
Linda Lipko
Linda Lipko marked it as to-read
Jun 05, 2014
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Loren D. Estleman is an American writer of detective and Western fiction. He writes with a manual typewriter.

Estleman is most famous for his novels about P.I. Amos Walker. Other series characters include Old West marshal Page Murdock and hitman Peter Macklin. He has also written a series of novels about the history of crime in Detroit (also the setting of his Walker books.) His non-series works in...more
More about Loren D. Estleman...
Sherlock Holmes vs. Dracula Dr. Jekyll and Mr.Holmes Motor City Blue (Amos Walker, #1) Frames (Valentino, #1) Whiskey River (Detroit Crime Mystery #1)

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“An execution carried out in secrecy is no better than lynching from a dry branch.” 2 likes
“Without question, his picture did not do him justice, but again, he was dead when it was taken” 1 likes
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