I gave in to my love for western-genre novels this week, even though it is a contemporary version. TwisteGerry B's Book Reviews
A solid read
I gave in to my love for western-genre novels this week, even though it is a contemporary version. Twisted (Lucky Jeff Ranch #2) by Jake Mactire [Dreamspinner Press; 1 edition, July 24, 2011] is a continuation of Mactire’s “Lucky Jeff Ranch” series, and, although I haven’t read Two Sides of the Same Coin, this sequel stood alone fairly well.
Jeff Donnelly became the proprietor of ‘Lucky Jeff Ranch’ upon the untimely death of his father in a car accident. Mike Guidry was one of the ranch hands who came with it, but eventually – after a number of adventures together – they became loving partners, and now they have plans afoot to convert ‘Lucky Jeff’ into a dude ranch.
Thus begins the adventures in Twisted.
To thicken the plot, a ranch hand by the name of Smitty asks if his younger brother (Jason) can come work with them. Gay and troubled, his brother wants to make a new start in a fresh environment, and Smitty feels that Jeff and Mike would make positive role models. Moreover, there is a recent threat that is stalking the gay community in town: A serial killer dubbed the ‘West Coast Cutter’ who is preying on gay men like Jason.
Then, unexpectedly, Mike’s father appears on the scene contritely making apologies for rejecting his son when he was sixteen. Jeff views this with a certain amount of scepticism, but for Mike’s sake he stands aside to allow him to reconnect with his estranged mother, brother and sister.
However, when a body is discovered nearby, there is no question the ‘West Coast Cutter’ is close at hand.
It is well written and easy to read: A good start.
The plot features some clever twists and turns (another plus), but for me it is clichéic. I think this is because it is angst driven – the gay but troubled brother; Mike’s expulsion from the family circle; the homophobic but contrite father – have all been done before.
I hasten to add that it is not a major issue, and it is subjective, but for someone who has read and analyzed over three hundred books for this blog, I thirst for something original – like comedy.
Nonetheless, it is a good read and well recommended. Four bees....more
A history lesson in novel form, and an enjoyable read.
One of the most grievously overlooked genres in GBLT fiction is ‘the gay adventure story’. That is not to say there are none. There are – and good ones, too – but they are few and far between.
One of the best writers in this genre is Roger Kean, and his latest offering Harry’s Great Trek (The Empire Series #3) [Reckless Books, February 1st 2015] is proof positive of this estimation.
His Empire Series has taken us through the hot spots of Imperial Britain’s golden age of domination and plunder (always for ‘their’ own good, of course.) Nevertheless, it remains one of my favourite eras for an overall commitment to ‘God and Empire’. It is probably the last example of a people willingly committed to a state that was ‘politely’ corrupt and exploitive, through-and through.
The blurb provides as good a synopsis of the story as I could write; therefore, I will contain my comments to some of the highlights as I see them.
First of all, I like the cover art and design by Oliver Frey. It has a rugged, masculine look about it that suits this type of novel. With a few notable exceptions, adventure novels tend to be written by male authors, and so anything less rugged wouldn’t have met my expectations.
I also love Kean’s choice of names, i.e. Harry Smythe-Vane, and Jolyon Langrish-Smith. How delicious zany! I have often observed that authors don’t give enough attention to names – especially historical names – but these certainly do add a ‘stuffiness’ to the era that fits.
The introduction of certain celebrities of the day – especially young Winston Churchill – added a whole new dimension to the already interesting historical events. There are also some who also say that Baden-Powell had interest in boys beyond scouting, and so these characters can add wonderful fodder to a story.
The writing is, of course, top notch (if, perhaps, a bit over-expansive), and so I am going to award this novel with a five-bee rating....more
Bondage, Domination, Submission and Masochism (BDSM), seems to be quite popular these days – due to the release of a movie based on that other BDSM book (which I read, but chose not to review), so I decided to offer one that is a superior story in many ways.
Behind Locked Doors by Nicholas Kinsley [Fantastic Fiction Publishing, February 17, 2015] is Kinsley’s debut novel, and a worthy effort it is, too. I would also add that I classify it as “sexy” as apposed to “hard-core” S&M.
Edward Taylor is a respected Edwardian, upper-middle class gentlemen, although he was born a bastard. However, because his biological father did the right thing, he is now a prosperous factory owner with money enough for dalliances – like Isaac Sinclair: a struggling writer who supports his ‘addiction’ by servicing gentlemen with special, exotic pleasures – i.e. BDSM.
Taylor's chance encounter with Sinclair comes about when he witnesses the latter stealing bread, and in a rather mutually agreed arrangement he coerces Sinclair into partaking of his services.
This continues, commercially at first, but as time goes by it becomes deeper – emotionally – until they are both inextricably in love.
Complicating matters is the fact that Taylor is married with a son. It is a rather odd arrangement whereby he married a French girl on a fling in Paris, thinking he would have to marry eventually – for appearances sake as much as anything else – and out of it came a somewhat estranged son.
The son is a sub-plot, for in loving Sinclair he also learns to love his son.
Overall, it is an engrossing story with strong main characters. Both Taylor and Sinclair are credible, and the story is plot-driven as apposed to sliding along on a stream of sperm. Likewise, the S&M is judiciously used as a piquant, rather than a gratuitous kink.
The insights into 19th-century mores are also well created, which suggests some research.
On the quibble side, flashbacks (retro-views) are tricky. I’ve read dozens of books that have used them, but only a few have done it well. I can’t say don’t use them, because it depends on how necessary the past is to explain the present, but otherwise use some other device, like a prologue.
Another quibble is the ‘fee’ Sinclair apparently charged for his services. Fifty pounds in the 19th century was a significant amount of money. For example, a skilled engineer might earn £110 per year if fully employed.
Which, I suppose is the other lesson this review might bring: Write about flying monsters and horned aliens with impunity, but miss a fact by a day or an inch and someone is bound to catch you up on it.
Who said a cover can’t sell a book? In my search for this week’s featured novel, which I do a week-or-so in advance of mGerry B's Book Reviews
Who said a cover can’t sell a book? In my search for this week’s featured novel, which I do a week-or-so in advance of my review, my eye fell upon L.C. Chase’s luscious design for Pickup Men (Volume 1) [Riptide Publishing; 1 edition, July 8, 2013]. The rodeo scene, the hunky model, and the elaborate font, all fit together to make a most evocative whole.
I liked the story too, although it stuck pretty much to the ‘road-well-travelled-genre’ of gay novels. Marty Fairgrave is a likeable, straightforward guy, out of the closet, and respected for it. He is also blessed with a pair of loving, supportive parents, and a couple of equally supportive, male friends.
On the other hand, his erstwhile lover (…of sorts), Tripp Colby, is locked in the closet from the inside, and is loathe to come out of it. As it turns out he has some justification on account of a homophobic and domineering father, but this isn’t doing a thing for Marty’s devotion.
Things finally come to a head when Marty risks serious injury to save Tripp from a rampant bull, but Tripp doesn’t have the courtesy to visit him in the hospital. Even so, after Marty has pulled the plug on their relationship, Tripp decides to make an effort to win him back.
In spite of all this, Tripp isn’t a complete heel—as we discover when he makes a trip to San Francisco, but whether he can redeem himself to the point where he regains Marty’s love is the crux of the story.
I try not to be too critical of a story simply because it sticks to the middle road, but, by the same token, there is very little to get excited about, either. Jane Jacobs once described modern, urban subdivisions as suffering from “The great blight of sameness,” and I am beginning to think the same applies to gay fiction.
More specifically I found that the writing style in this one tended to jump topics rather abruptly, making for a bumpy read, and that some of the sex scenes were just a bit loquacious for my taste. Mind you, I scan sex scenes anyway, so that is a minor quibble.
Bottom line: Would I recommend it? Yes, definitely. These are merely my opinions, and they may not reflect the tastes and opinions of others. Three bees....more
In my choice of Adagio by Chris Owen [Casperian Books LLC, September 21, 2012] as my featured novel this week, three tGerry B's Book Reviews
In my choice of Adagio by Chris Owen [Casperian Books LLC, September 21, 2012] as my featured novel this week, three things caught my notice. First, it is about two Canadian boys, written by a Canadian author, and set in Australia.
I don’t know why I like Australia as I do (I love the accents), but for whatever reason it has a certain romance to it. Therefore, it is the perfect setting for a romance of this nature.
There is very little about Canada, or even Canadian content in this story, but that’s alright. The Australian outback makes up for it, and I think that the author has done a credible job of making it part of the story. Certainly I felt it’s vastness, and what better way to cleanse the soul than by a ‘walkabout.’
I liked the two main characters, the scarred but compassionate Jason, and the wide-eyed Ryan. They both compliment and contrast one another to produce a nice balance. I think one is more drawn to Ryan as the ingénue, but Jason is also travelling a road of discovery.
I also like the unhurried pace that allowed the two boys to get to know one another before their first sexual experience. The sex scenes were also well handled—which is ironic for me to say because I once criticized Ms Owen’s work for being a bit too ‘generous’ with her couplings. Therefore, I am happy to take that criticism back with this novel.
The quibbles I have are few. A few loose threads (meaning plot lines that either disappear or aren’t fully exploited later on). I, for one, like to see unexpected references to previous events, even if they are minor, because they are like grace notes that add a touch of brilliance to a story. It is the little touches like this that can make a good story outstanding.
Altogether, it is a heart warming romance in the classic style, nicely written, and set in a equally romantic locale. Four bees....more
There isn’t a great deal of critical comment one can make about a book like A World Ago: A Navy Man’s Letters Home (195Gerry B's Book Reviews
There isn’t a great deal of critical comment one can make about a book like A World Ago: A Navy Man’s Letters Home (1954-1956) by Dorien Grey [Untreed Reads Publishing, April 8, 2013]. It is a charming look into one man’s life at an interesting age and time I would say; although, the older Roger Margason, a.k.a. Dorien Grey has the depth of character I prefer. Therefore, I will limit my remarks to some personal observations.
I am a great advocate of journal keeping for very selfish reasons. They are absolutely invaluable when it comes to recreating someone’s life and times. Therefore, I am utterly amazed that he had the foresight to save these epistles intact. Otherwise the memories they contain might have been lost forever. Moreover, for informal writings, they are remarkably literate and easy to read.
At the time the letters where written, 1954 – 1956, Dorien was between ‘grass and straw’—as the old cowpokes would say, i.e. past puberty but not quite matured. Interestingly the letters show this, for there is a perceptible maturing as they progress in time.
One is also struck by the candid nature as well. They may have been edited for journalistic reasons, but one does not get the impression they have been altered in the process.
His powers of observation regarding the exotic places he visits, i.e. Paris, Cannes, Athens, Beirut, Valencia, Istanbul, etc. is like reading a travelogue of the time, and as an amateur historian I found this intriguing.
Altogether, therefore, this is a fascinating insight into a personality and the times, and not once did I feel it lost my interest on account of self-ndulgence. A truly interesting read. Five bees. ...more
I have long lamented (grumbled) that many GBLT books tend to be angst-ridden, depressing tales, with generous side orderGerry B's Book Reviews
I have long lamented (grumbled) that many GBLT books tend to be angst-ridden, depressing tales, with generous side orders of self-doubt regarding one’s sexuality. Admittedly, these have been, and still are, a regrettable part of GBLT life, but from my experience there have been many more humorous moments than sad. So when I saw the cooky cover of Shy, by John Inman [Dreamspinner Press, 2012], I felt it was time for a little humour.
The basic story has Tom Morgan, a SAD sufferer (“Social Anxiety Disorder” – not to be confused with “Seasonal Affective Disorder”), going to a party hosted by his ex-boyfriend and hisnew boyfriend—a real nogoodnic-cad named Stanley.
At this party he meet’s Frank Wells, a displaced farm boy, who also happens to be Stanley-the-cad’s brother. By coincidence Frank also suffers from a social anxiety complex, and so the two find comfort in one another’s limitations.
As it happens Frank’s father is critically ill back on the farm, and so Frank is called back to keep things going, taking Tom (an urbane New Yorker) with him.
Also playing the comic relief role is a loose-bowelled chihuahaua by the name of “Pedro,” a razorback hog, and a flock of chickens the size of Galapagos Islands. Therefore, there is no shortage of comedic circumstances, and Inman delivers on most of them.
I connected with this story in a number of ways. I too was a farm boy, and as such I took a sort of perverse pleasure from watching my urban cousins trying to steer themselves around chicken dropping, which are like trying to sidestep snowflakes. So I got a good chuckle from some of Tom’s fastidious antics.
I liked the banter as well, but here I thought it was perhaps a bit overdone. In other words, I sometimes felt that what was meant as repartee was merely bitchy, and made Tom look like a GECQ (“grand eighteenth-century queen”.)
I also join others in thinking that Stanley’s ‘no-good-ness’ was a bit overdone, but I defend the author’s choice regarding his fate. It’s his license. He created the characters, and so he can dispose of them the way he wishes. Therein lies the ‘author-as-god’ syndrome.
Altogether I thought it was a fun read with some limitations. Three and one-half bees....more
As you may have noticed, I am a great fan of western-style tales, especially if they are reasonably true to the true cowGerry B's Book Reviews
As you may have noticed, I am a great fan of western-style tales, especially if they are reasonably true to the true cowboy lifestyle—which was by no means glamorous, or filled with gratuitous sex. This interest led to my discovery of Nevada’s “Great Basin” through the incredible photography of Adam Jahiel (see: “Search for the Last Cowboy”), so when I saw that Shadow of the Wind by Mackey Hedges (author), Robert Sigman (compiler), Joelle Smith (cover design) [CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2010] was not only written by an actual cowboy, but also set in the Basin, I had to read it.
The extensive blurb for this book covers the plot every bit as well as I could, so I will simply quote it here:
Dean McCuen is a young man fresh out of the Army. The son of a widowed father who owns a large and long established cattle ranch in Nevada. Dean tells in “first person” of his family’s’ rags to riches heritage; being brought up by wealthy “Eastern” relatives, and the life experiences that have shaped his character. After being discharged from the Military, Dean decides to go out on his own and gain some first hand experience before seeking his place in the family business.
Tap McCoy, a 60 year old who is a cowboy for life, is recovering from a very debauched and regretful week. On the outskirts of town, Dean picks up a very dazed Tap with only his most important possessions – his bedroll and saddle. And so, the destinies of Dean and Tap become entwined. For Dean, it is a chance to learn from “experience;” for Tap, it is a quick “getaway” out of town.
Readers are introduced to many characters including, a grumpy old ranch owner that hates everyone, an attractive, flirtatious girl that enjoys having men fight over her, alcoholic cowboys that spend all their hard earned money on week long drunks, prejudice that includes Indians, Whites and Blacks and an eccentric desert hermit as well as a host of other interesting characters.
There is nothing fictional about this story other than the plot. The characters are real, the adventures actually happened and the country and ranches exist. Every fight, bucking horse ride and wild wreck actually took place. It is a factual description of the working lives of the Great Basin buckaroos during the mid 1900′s. Like Last Buckaroo, it captures a time period that has all but come to an end.
Each chapter is episodic – a story within itself. Shadow Of the Wind is steeped in history with adventure, friendship, romance and a slight degree of mystery. This “buddy story” is fast moving, written with colorful descriptive language to give the reader an accurate idea of the location and view of the country without distracting from the action.
Shadow of The Wind is a “must read” for anyone interested in the everyday lives of the people that live and work on the ranches of he west.
And, as far as a plot is concerned, the author has covered this as well.
This is not a western shoot ‘em up type of cowboy story; in fact it really doesn’t have much of a plot. It is a story I wrote for my own enjoyment while I was healing up from a broken leg.
The way cattle are being run in the west is changing so fast that a lot of the old ways are being forgotten as well as the way people talk and think. I wanted to try and capture a little of this for future generations.
I make no claims to being an author. I am a buckaroo (high desert cowboy) that enjoys putting his thoughts down on paper. Because I have no formal training or education in the literary field my style drives professionals crazy. In fact when the editor got hold of what I had written he almost had a fit. He had more than a small amount of difficulty finding the correct spelling for many of the western slang terms that are used. However, the thing that came closest to driving him nuts was the fact that, as he said, “It is nothing more than a series of short stories strung together by a thin thread of unrelated facts!”
My answer to that was, “SO WHAT? It’s not supposed to be a novel. It’s a little bunkhouse tale about the lives of a couple of high desert buckaroos. It was written with the intent and hope of passing on information in an enjoyable manner.”
I guess what I am trying to say is that if you are starting out to read this with the objective to criticize you are going to find plenty to work with. On the other hand if you want to get a first hand view of real western life ranging from boring to thrilling I think you will find it in these pages, at least I hope so.
Like my first book, all of the fights, brawls and bucking horse rides are real. The characters, although fictional are in part based on the lives of actual people. Even the ranches in this story are distinctively similar to actual cattle operations I have worked on or visited. In other words “ This is the real deal” even if the names have been changed to protect the guilty.
And that, dear friends about says it all. It reads authentic because it is, and that means it is more entertaining and informative than perfect. Highly recommended for true “buckaroos.” Five bees....more
I must admit that it was the cutesie title, i.e. The Boys and the Bees, by Mari Donne [Dreamspinner Press, November 28Gerry B's Book Reviews
I must admit that it was the cutesie title, i.e. The Boys and the Bees, by Mari Donne [Dreamspinner Press, November 28, 2012] that first caught my attention. I also must admit that I expected it to be more erotic than it is—but that’s a good thing. Between plot and sex, plot wins with me every time. In fact, The Boys and the Bees is a very gentle love story devoid—for the most part—of angst, archenemies, and anxious soul-searching.
However, editorially speaking, Mark frustrated me. It wasn’t for lack of development, because he is quite vivid; rather, it was because he was such a ‘milk toast—everyone’s patsy—especially his usurious parents and siblings. Of course, I understand why the author chose to characterize him this way. She needed some room for him to grow when he meets Jamie, and that’s fair enough.
I liked Jamie, even though I generally dislike over-zealous ‘causers’ of any kind, but I thought he exhibited a nice balance. After all, he did work at the local co-op. The pace was appropriate, too, which suited both the story and the small town setting.
So, I guess my only quibble is the lack of an original plot. As well-written as this story is, and it is, it seems the last three books I’ve read have all had a similar theme: Small town boy returns to find his high school friend, BFF, crush, etc., still there, and after some business (ranching, etc.) they settle down happily ever after.
Now these are books I selected at random, and from different sources, so it is not as though I went looking for a particular genre. Nonetheless, individually, they are all good reads.
That said, I recommend The Boys and the Bees as a truly gentle and romantic romance. Three and one-half bees....more
Before I even read Lonely as God, by Dale Chase [Wilde City Press, 2013], I was taken by the cover design. OutstandingGerry B's Book Reviews
Before I even read Lonely as God, by Dale Chase [Wilde City Press, 2013], I was taken by the cover design. Outstanding! In fact, I’m jealous I didn’t find such an image for my forthcoming western novel.
Right from the beginning one is struck by the unapologetic earthiness of this tale. Told in first person by the main character, Tom Seeley, there is no doubt what it is all about. It is erotica, plain and simple, and yet it is not pornographic in the sense that the author does not dwell on every nuance of the act. Indeed, the sex scenes are perfunctory, almost utilitarian in nature, and for the most part are over in a few paragraphs (as apposed to pages), i.e.,
I’ve come up hard knowing he’ll take me, and I spit in my palm and smear it down my cock while Matt reaches back to part his buttocks. “Give me some dick,” he says, and I get behind him and shove in. He lets out a moan, and I hear a low whistle from Drew but I don’t look over.
Get a man’s dick up a butt hole and nothing else matters. Troubles, thoughts, concerns, fears, none have a chance amid a fuck and I start to pump into Matt while knowing this, my dick setting me free. Doesn’t matter I came before. My balls have filled back up and feel ready to burst so I give it to Matt good, ramming in and out, grunting like some pig in his wallow.
I can feel Matt working his cock. He moans in time to my thrusting and soon says he’s coming. When he squeals, it drives me to fuck harder. Then my juice sets to boiling which makes my mouth fall open, my tongue come out like it will taste the come. I allow whatever sounds my body requires while gaining release, grunts and groans and all manner of things except for words. I cannot speak at such a time. Then I hit the rise, and I dig my fingers into Matt as the pulse begins. I cry out as I let go into him, filling his chute with my stuff as I pound his bottom. His horse snorts approval.
I keep at Matt even after I empty because I don’t want to stop. Not ever. But nature will have her way and I go soft and slip out. I slap Matt’s bottom and he straightens up and turns. “Some good fuck,” he says as he pulls up his drawers.
I like that. Sex is part of life, and of GLBT literature, but having said this it shouldn’t be the be-all or even the ‘most-of-all’ of a plot. So, even though this tale is highly erotic, it doesn’t run away with the story.
I’m also willing into buy the notion that 18, rough-neck men, are into mano-a-mano sex at the drop of a pair of Levis, but realistically it is quite a stretch. It is, perhaps, the closest the plot comes to being pornographic.
I also like the non-poetic prose. The main character is not an educated man, and cattle drives were not a genteel affair. They were long, hot, dusty and dangerous undertakings, and the men were as tough as the trail or the cattle they drove. So the King’s English would have been out of place here.
There were a couple of places where I thought the story went over the top, especially with the loose sex issue, but generally-speaking it is as true to the conditions, interactions, and language of a cattle drive as I have read.Four and on-half bees....more
Although I have come across the name Josh Lanyon many times while searching through online bookstores, I had not read anGerry B's Book Reviews
Although I have come across the name Josh Lanyon many times while searching through online bookstores, I had not read any of his books until I picked up Cards On The Table [Just Joshin, January 24, 2012], a short story but, oh, so satisfying.
Timothy North is a former reporter who has turned his hand to writing about an unsolved murder that is well and truly cold. However, as in all such cases, there is something intriguing about it; and sinister as well.
The next plot step up is that the case involved a beautiful Hollywood starlet and a bloodied Tarot card. However, as Tim digs further it becomes very evident that someone wants him off the case by pinning a sinister threat to his door—a Tarot card.
Wisely, Tim looks for support in the one person he knows can help—his ex-lover, Detective Jack Brady. The difficulty is that they parted under somewhat strained circumstances, so the question is: Can they warm up to before the parting?
With this twist we now have a second mystery running parallel to the first (in beautiful fashion), which only doubles the the reader’s already piqued interest.
It is subtle contrivances like these that separate the master mystery writer from the pack; this, and a list of eccentric suspects, mob connections, assorted dangers, and a cute cop with dimples thrown into the mix.
Altogether this story is a jewel; not too long, not too short, but just right. Five bees....more
Seeing all the five-star reviews for Tigers and Devils (Tigers and Devils #1), by Sean Kennedy [Dreamspinner Press; 2Gerry B's Book Reviews
Seeing all the five-star reviews for Tigers and Devils (Tigers and Devils #1), by Sean Kennedy [Dreamspinner Press; 2 edition, August 30, 2012] is very impressive. I liked it too (deservedly so), but I couldn’t quite go five bees.
The blurb synopsizes the plot quite well, and so I will concentrate more on what I liked and was reserved about in this book.
I thought the plot—although not particularly unique—was captivating with some nice romantic scenes, and enough angst to keep it interesting. I also liked how the author brought the two somewhat disparate characters together: with Simon defending Declan while he was present, but unbeknownst to the other. Nice touch.
The character develop is well done, over all. I had a good visual sense of Declan, but not so much his thinking. Of course, this is largely due to Simon’s first-person point of view, so it is a minor drawback. The secondary character were interesting as well—particularly Simon’s married friends who added different dimension to the story. It also goes without saying the the writing is first rate.
I did have some issues with pace. It seemed to drag in places—particularly in the first half of the story—and, as has been mentioned by others, this is partially due to the length. However, I do sympathize with the author on this point. I also hate to part with prose after I have laboured over it. It’s sort of like cutting off an ear lobe.
That said, I really did like the story and I think you will too. Four bees....more
A while ago some government official, I can’t remember who, was ruminating over the best way to teach kids about CanadiaGerry B's Book Reviews
A while ago some government official, I can’t remember who, was ruminating over the best way to teach kids about Canadian history. Simple: Make it interesting.
When I was going to school, and from what I’ve seen since, [see: Canadian History Made Boring], it is as if educators have gone out of their way to make history as unpalatable as possible. The fact is that Canada has a history as colourful and entertaining as any in the world, and it only remains for kids and adults alike to discover this.
We have real Sergeant Prestons who patrolled the Yukon, cattle drives undertaken though 1,500 hundred miles of primeval wilderness, pioneers who transported several stallions and breeding cattle 800 miles by canoe, great train robberies and gunfights that would make O.K. Corral look like an afternoon social, and yet very few people know about it. Fortunately, we also have people like E. J. Hart to write marvelous books like Jimmy Simpson: Legend of the Rockies [Rocky Mountain Books, First Edition, October 2009].
Now if this were being taught in school, we would dutifully learn that Jimmy Simpson (1877 – 1972) emigrated from England, arriving in Winnipeg in 1896. There he farmed for a while until he decided to go West [psst, after drinking up all his money]. He therefore pawned his gold watch and chain, and took a train to Calgary. Hearing of work on the railway he stowed away on a westbound train, but when he was discovered and kicked off he walked the 20-or-so-miles to Laggan (just below Lake Louise).
Being adventurous, Simpson signed on as cook with legendary outfitter, Tom Wilson, and began learning the outfitting business from “Wild” Bill Peyto—another legendary Rocky Mountain adventurer.
In 1898, while working for Wilson, Simpson happened upon Bow Lake with the ice field and two magnificent glaciers above. He and his companions camped by the northern end of the lake, and it was there the he made his now famous proclamation: “I’ll build a shack here sometime,” he said.
Eventually Simpson left Wilson to strike out on his own, supplementing his guiding and outfitting business with trapping. To get around he took up snow shoeing, becoming so proficient at it that the local Indians gave him the honorary title of “Nashan-esen” (meaning “wolverine-go-quickly”).
In 1922 he returned to Bow Lake to build his log shack—as he had vowed to do—and when the Banff-Jasper Highway was built, bringing automobile traffic to the area in 1937, he built a small lodge to accommodate them. He called this lodge “Num-te-jah,” the Indian word for pine marten.
Business grew, and in the 1940s a major expansion to the lodge was undertaken to bring its capacity to sixteen rooms.
The original lodge became Simpson’s personal residence where he died in 1972, at the age of 95.
Interesting enough, I suppose, but as E. J. Hart has so masterfully demonstrated by way of Simpson`s own anecdotes, it says nothing about the man or his remarkable wit. For example:
[Fred Ballard was a partner in the trapping business for a (short) while.]
Ballard had been teasing me about a new suit of underwear that had been in the cabin all winter and as to how nice it was going to feel inside it when he got to it. When we arrived he got to it all right but the cabin had leaked and it was sopping wet inside so we built a bit fire outside and made camp. Fred squeezed the water out of it and spread it out in front of the fire carefully while I cooked up what flour was there and made a small bannock, and it was small. When cooked I halved it and his half past his tonsils as fast as a cable [trans-Atlantic telegraph] going over to the old country for more money while I sat on a log and ate mine slowly. That was too much for Fred. Pretty soon he snapped, “If there is anything I hate it’s to see is a man chawing on a piece of bread that I could swallow in two bites, especially when he has only one good eye to chaw with.” [Simpson had a temporary snow blindness in one eye]. I understood.
We lay down to sleep before the fire but in the middle of the night I was awakened by bad language in time to see Ballard holding up a piece of underwear with five button holes on it. A piece of charcoal had got to it while he was asleep so I thought condolences were due. “That’s not too bad,” I said, “All it needs is new arms and legs and a piece on the back to fold over the chest, those five button holes still look quite good.” The air was blue.
Another example of Simpson’s wit relates to an exploration trip he and “Wild” Bill Peyto took one winter. They had stopped for a smoke beside a huge dead spruce and Jimmy drove his axe into it. From inside came a sound like falling debris, so he hit it again with the back of the axe. He was about to do it again when, to his astonishment, it opened up and the head of a two-year old grizzly poked through. This is how he described what happened next:
Nine foot five is my record standing jump and I made it backwards. turning in mid air, and then I started showing squirrels how to climb a tree. I measured that jump next day with a copy of“Tid-Bits”that sported a foot rule on the cover. When I made the top I looked back. There was Bill cussing a blue streak and kicking that bear’s head back every time it poked its nose through. It had gone into hibernation and was in a semi comatose condition but it was fast in waking up. Bill called to me, I dropped out of the blue like dose of measles and we lit out for the camp. Next day we gathered it in.
This is how history should be taught. With some life in it. Sadly these people have passed on, but their way of life, their wit and humour, should not be buried with them.
For people, like me, who enjoy a history lesson that reads like a novel; that allows the reader to appreciate the times through the eyes of colourful characters like Simpson; and that is valid history at the same time, then I cannot recommend this book highly enough. Thank you E. J. Hart. Five bees....more
As I’ve mentioned before, I generally avoid contemporary western novels because they are too often just a series of rompGerry B's Book Reviews
As I’ve mentioned before, I generally avoid contemporary western novels because they are too often just a series of romps in the sack with very little plot. There are many that aren’t, of course, and happily Texas Pride by Kindle Alexander [The Kindle Alexander Collection LLC, March 16, 2013] is one of them.
The well-written story blurb covers the plot fairly well: A famous in-the-closet Hollywood star (Austin Grainger) suddenly hangs up his make-up kit for life on a fifteen-hundred-acre ranch located in his home town.
Unbeknownst, a fellow in-the-closet case (Kitt Kelly) owns the adjoining Ranch. However, when Grainger re-encounters Kitt (they had admired each others assets in high school) he sets out to get him into his corral.
Kitt is deeply in the closet, however, and although he’s fine with the sex he makes it clear that he has a lot riding on getting the family ranch back in business—not to mention a step-mother and sisters who are counting on him.
The inevitable happens (of course), but to add some angst to the story the author employs a group of sleazy tabloid hounds who manage to out the two lovers to the shock and astonishment of their home town.
Will the two men be able to weather the outcome? That, I’ll leave for the readers to discover.
Over all I liked the main characters—Kitt in particular—and for the most part the business (i.e. action) was well-paced and plausible. The plot was interesting, although not unique in any way, and the ending was gratifying.
Unfortunately, the shortcoming came at a most fundamental level—grammar and spelling. I realize that professional editors are expensive, usually costing one or two thousand dollars for a good one, but spellcheck should pick up most typos, and a reasonably literate friend can pick up the simple grammatical errors–like tense.
All that said, it’s a pleasant romance with a happy ending. Three and one-half bees....more