Young Clint Connor has been serving time in the Wyoming Territorial Prison for the last three years for the unpardonable sin of stealing a horse. NowYoung Clint Connor has been serving time in the Wyoming Territorial Prison for the last three years for the unpardonable sin of stealing a horse. Now everybody knows that that such a crime committed in the American West during the latter half of the 19th century is second only to murder in seriousness (and maybe not even then) but in Clint’s case it’s an understandable offense since he was really just protecting the horse from the savage abuse being handed out by its owner. Unfortunately, the owner in question happened to be the judge so there just wasn’t going to be a good end to that story.
However, all of that is backstory to the beginning of this novel and the action commences almost immediately when Clint finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time and is forced to escape along with a couple of other hardened criminals or face immediate execution. Clint has some savvy to go along with his courage and he is able to turn that situation to his advantage, even though he would have preferred to have served out his sentence and not be forever after running from the law. What follows is a nicely-plotted, unpredictable story filled with nicely drawn characters, several subplots (including a sweet romance), and a satisfying ending.
I’ve read a lot of Westerns over the years but they have almost always been those that were written decades ago, many of them in the 1940s, 50s and 60s. And I rarely grant them 5 stars. I appreciate this author’s attention to historical accuracy as well as the attention he pays to the horses of this novel. He realizes that horses aren’t just part of the scenery and understands that they can’t simply be ridden forever without tiring, needing horseshoe replacement, etc. Seems like a small detail but it just further cements my enjoyment.
I’ve been looking for a more modern writer who writes westerns in a similar style and I think I have found one in Mr. West. I’m happy to see he has quite a few under his belt for me to pursue. ...more
Four societal misfits and conspiracy theorists living in the Washington DC area have banded together to form what they refer to as the Camel Club. LedFour societal misfits and conspiracy theorists living in the Washington DC area have banded together to form what they refer to as the Camel Club. Led by Oliver Stone, a 60+ year old man with a mysterious past, they find themselves accidentally witnessing a murder. That launches them into an adventure beyond their wildest expectations involving a complex and bizarre terrorist plot.
I’ve been a David Baldacci fan since I read Absolute Power. His books don’t always quite live up to that one in my mind but I can pretty much guarantee a good read. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting as much from this one due to some less-than-positive- reviews from my Goodreads friends whose opinions I greatly respect. But I will say now that I enjoyed this one quite a lot. The characters were engaging, not only the four members of the Camel Club but the Secret Service, the terrorists, and even the politicians. The plot required some suspension of disbelief but was nevertheless interesting and moved along swiftly. Most of the novel ticked along fairly predictably but it was evident that something else was unfolding that I needed to be patient for. The payoff was worth it as the nature of the terrorist plot turned out to be anything but predictable and was one of the most unusual I have yet read.
Looking forward to reading the rest of this series. ...more
The second novel in the Patriots series picks up immediately after the conclusion of the first book, just after the opening salvos of the American RevThe second novel in the Patriots series picks up immediately after the conclusion of the first book, just after the opening salvos of the American Revolutionary War at Concord and Lexington. The action is told from several of the same major characters from the first book, most notably the brothers Daniel and Quincy Reed. At the request of the Committee of Safety, they depart the Boston area, bound for Colonel Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys to join their efforts to take Fort Ticonderoga and secure the Lake Champlain area.
Fort Ticonderoga served as a key point of access to both Canada and the Hudson River Valley during the French and Indian War. On May 10, 1775, Benedict Arnold of Massachusetts joined Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys of Vermont in a dawn attack on the fort, surprising and capturing the sleeping British garrison. Although it was a small-scale conflict, the Battle of Fort Ticonderoga was the first American victory of the Revolutionary War, and would give the Continental Army much-needed artillery to be used in future battles. And of course, the fictional characters of this novel played key roles in securing that bit of history.
But those aren’t the only “Rebel Guns” secured from the British during the book. Clandestine operations by characters from the first novel as well as some new ones, now deeply embedded in a network of spies, results in the theft of prized artillery pieces and ammo from a private merchant ship in the Atlantic as well. Thus, the British cause is deeply hurt and the American efforts richly rewarded in one fell swoop.
Don’t get the impression that these books are all war-time action. Rather, this tends to be more back-drop than front-and-center. These books are mostly about the characters themselves, their lives and loves and attempts to achieve their personal goals (which frequently get left behind in the urgency to complete their various missions).
Once again, I enjoyed a nice comfortable read about the mighty struggles of other people, both historical and fictional…from the comfort of my own easy chair. I recommend this method to all. ...more
When one of Doc’s aides is threatened, Doc and his crew embark on a ship-board adventure against one of his greatest physical adversaries and in a truWhen one of Doc’s aides is threatened, Doc and his crew embark on a ship-board adventure against one of his greatest physical adversaries and in a truly remarkable setting: the Sargasso Sea, a living breathing mythic site all its own where all the flotsam and jetsam and derelict ships of the ocean have converged into a floating muck that has become a home to a sort of lost civilization. The tale is packed with all the Doc Savage tropes that one hopes for: physical fights, gun fights, cutting edge scientific devices (for the 1930s), a mysterious plot, disguises, captured good guys with daring escapes and rescues, and of course, the incomparable mental acuity and foresight of one Clark Savage Jr.
This early Doc Savage adventure, penned by the originator of the series, Lester Dent is often listed among fan favorites, and very often in the top 5. It’s easy to see why. For me, the early Doc adventures are the best because they include all 5 of his aides and the Monk-Ham banter is kept to a minimum. These early stories are also somewhat linked together with this one actually mentioning that Doc and the boys having just completed an adventure in The Lost Oasis.
While the Bantam paperback editions list this as #18, the original order would place it as #8. Regardless, this one’s a keeper. ...more
John Anderson, ex-con, plans and executes a masterful heist of a multi-unit apartment complex in New York City. That’s the basis of the plot for thisJohn Anderson, ex-con, plans and executes a masterful heist of a multi-unit apartment complex in New York City. That’s the basis of the plot for this book but that’s certainly not what makes it unique. There is an “author” who describes what we are about to read as his summation of a wide variety of transcriptions of various tape recordings, witness statements, court records, concealed wiretap evidence, etc. that relate to the crime in question. This forms a framework for the entire story but we readers are left to act as voyeurs, reading and sifting through all the various documents, etc. to form the essence of what actually happened during the robbery and subsequent police actions. Most of the recordings in the first two thirds of the book involve John Anderson himself as he meets with other criminals, mob bosses, etc. and puts together his master plan. The final third of the book shifts to the witness statements, police accounts, and perpetrator statements from the robbery itself.
This is certainly one of the more unusual books I’ve ever read. It reads like a play with the name of the speaker identified on each line followed by what they said on the tape recording. At first I was concerned that this wouldn’t be any fun at all. The first several chapters of transcriptions were heavy on legal procedural stuff like identifying the time and location of the recording and even details like the make and model of the recording equipment. But I soon fell into the rhythm of it and it wasn’t a problem at all. When the robbery itself kicks off, the narrative pace really kicks off and comes across not only as realistic but also with heart-pounding suspense.
This was Lawrence Sanders first published novel and it won the Edgar award for best first novel back in 1971. Goodreads lists it as the first in the “Deadly Sins” series but I would categorize it as more of a prequel and only because it does introduce Captain Edward X. Delaney in the final 50 pages or so (via his final report on the case as on-scene commander). Subsequent novels in the series follow a traditional novel format, not this recording/transcription technique.
So, in the end, I enjoyed the book quite a lot. All those transcripts were woven together effectively to form a comprehensive and complete story. There was also a bit of unexpected humor from time to time, especially among some of the witness statements, some of whom tended to stray from the facts or embellish their tales, often to the police officer’s frustration. It’s been a while since I read the first two “Deadly Sins” novels but this experience has spurred me to go for the rest of them now, and catch up with one of my favorite police characters, Edward X. Delaney. ...more
In the days of Victorian England, the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences exists as a clandestine organization, charged with investigating and fixing verIn the days of Victorian England, the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences exists as a clandestine organization, charged with investigating and fixing very strange happenings. Field agent Eliza Braun, having just lost her partner in her previous case, has been relegated to a sort of rehabilitation assignment deep within the bowels of the archives where Wellington Thornhill Books, Esquire is hard at work sorting, cataloguing, and organizing the vast array of evidence from past cases. When Eliza discovers more documentation on the unsolved case in which her partner was killed, her penchant for action takes over once again and her new archivist associate is dragged along for the ride.
I am always wary of dipping into a new (to me) steampunk series for the first time. It seems this subgenre has been somewhat overexposed in recent years and the gems can get lost in the myriad of such books being published these days. But this one started out well and I soon became invested in these two characters and their adventures, even though a lot of standard steampunk tropes are present throughout the book. Even the names of the two main characters seemed a bit too contrived: “Braun” for the feisty action-oriented female field agent complete with bullet-proof corset and a ton of hidden pistols and knives, and “Books” as the name of the mild-mannered librarian (sorry…archivist) who seems more concerned with proper shelving protocols than actual results.
But on the whole, this was a better-than-expected read for me. The book doesn’t try to take itself too seriously and Eliza and Wellington both have a certain charm that really carried the plot. I also liked that the steampunk world building wasn’t overwhelming…enough cool stuff to be interesting but not so much as to drown the reader in irrelevant gadgets. The case itself was nicely complex and required our two intrepid main characters to step way outside their respective comfort zones, facing extreme danger as well as an intriguing and beguiling evil organization. Add a mysterious boss of the Ministry and a group of unofficial assistant children called the “Ministry Seven” (think Baker Street Irregulars) and we have the makings of a pretty good series. There is certainly enough here to drive me toward reading book two, which I will get to in due course.
Overall I rate it 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4. ...more
Boston, 1773, finds 20-year-old Daniel Reed from Virginia embarking on his studies at Harvard in order to become a lawyer. He, his younger brother QuiBoston, 1773, finds 20-year-old Daniel Reed from Virginia embarking on his studies at Harvard in order to become a lawyer. He, his younger brother Quincy and cousin Elliot Markham find themselves caught up in the stirrings of rebellion as the British colonists grow more and more incensed with the various British acts taking place. The question becomes whether to support the British rule of law or whether to instead, side with the insurrectionists who would eventually become known as patriots and the Sons of Liberty.
This novel is the first of a 6-part series covering the American Revolutionary War and takes us from 1773 all the way through the beginning battles of the war at Lexington and Concord. The political situation is what drives the plot but the story is more about the individual characters and how they react to each other and the situations they come up against.
Ever since my trip to Washington DC and the Virginia region last summer, I’ve been itching to read about this period of history once again. I chose this series for several reasons but primarily because I knew the author name of “Adam Rutledge” was a pseudonym for one of my favorite authors of historical novels and westerns, James Reasoner. I always like his easy-to-read style and the way he creates characters that I can relate to. Some would say they are too black and white and the good guys are easily distinguishable from the bad. But sometimes that is exactly what I am looking for.
So, for my first read of the new year, I think I chose just the right book. The next 5 in the series should be equally satisfying. ...more
Just prior to our wedding, the officiating minister insisted my fiance and I read this book. I suppose it was a way of warning us of things to avoid.Just prior to our wedding, the officiating minister insisted my fiance and I read this book. I suppose it was a way of warning us of things to avoid. Well...that was in 1985 and we are still happily married so perhaps this book assisted with that. To be honest I don't remember much about the book other than it was "required" reading....more
Lots happening in this stand-alone western novel...perhaps a little too much. It is essentially the story of a bad guy who is to be taken by stage froLots happening in this stand-alone western novel...perhaps a little too much. It is essentially the story of a bad guy who is to be taken by stage from El Paso to Fort Yuma for hanging, but who escapes by the end of chapter one, forcing the good guys to chase him down in order to bring him to justice. There was a good mix of characters as well as a number of action scenes as the stagecoach makes its way through Apache country with brief stops at places like "Cooke's Spring", "Cow Spring", and "Apache Pass".
While this was an enjoyable story, I felt it would have been better if it were longer, allowing some of the intriguing side characters and their stories to be fleshed out a little more. But as a house-name contract series, I'm sure the page length was well-established long before the author took pen to paper....more
Another stretch read for me. As I’ve mentioned before, I try to utilize the month of December to sample some books that I would not normally choose foAnother stretch read for me. As I’ve mentioned before, I try to utilize the month of December to sample some books that I would not normally choose for myself and this time around I decided to go completely against what I normally enjoy.
As most reviewers note, this is a coming of age novel about a young man, Gil, in his 20’s who is struggling to make it as a stage actor in New York during the 1970’s. It is written in the first person and, as soon becomes apparent, is written as a sort of memoir by the main character as he is looking back on his early days. The book is basically a conglomeration of scenes that depict both the gritty ugliness of the city of New York as well as the near-hopeless struggle of artistic types as they try to make headway in almost impossible circumstances.
This is the first book by Wilton Barnhardt and the style seems like he is trying a bit too hard to be the next big thing. Note: Why do new authors so often try a gimmick of some kind when writing a novel? For example, throughout this book, every time Gil, the POV character says something, there are no quotes around what he says. There are quotes for everybody else but not for Gil. When I read it it’s as if Gill is thinking these thoughts to himself but then another character reacts to it and I realize he has said it aloud. It’s very annoying and often caused me to have to re-read that paragraph to actually understand what was happening. So, for any budding authors out there: use proper punctuation! The rules are there for a reason. Don’t try to get cute and pretend you’re William Faulkner because, frankly his punctuation short-cut style bugs me too.
OK…back to your regularly scheduled review…
This is a difficult book for me to rate. At times I loved the writing, especially how the author used the character’s own actions and words to give them dimension. It’s a great example of “show, don’t tell” technique. The city of New York absolutely breathes with life throughout and most of the time it’s not the glamorous City we see but rather the darker, seedier, kick-your-butt City that leads to the old adage, “If you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere.” Most of the plot surrounds the artsy NYC scene of the 1970’s with parties, etc. and off-off-off Broadway theater. The novel was published back in 1989 so the many attempts at shocking the reader tend to fall a little flat, especially the numerous references to the gay/lesbian scene. The humor is amazing however, and what I would call “sophisticated” with many a laugh-out-loud moment, mostly of the “I can’t believe she said that!” variety.
So yeah, this is hard for me to rate. I definitely appreciate the book on many levels but at the same time, it just wasn’t really my cup o' tea. While reading it there were times when I was engrossed and times when I wanted to toss it out the window. In the end I am glad I read it but will probably shy away from this author in the future. ...more
Any new piece of fiction by the prolific Lawrence Block is always an expected treat and this novella is no exception. It’s a look at a cross-section iAny new piece of fiction by the prolific Lawrence Block is always an expected treat and this novella is no exception. It’s a look at a cross-section in the life of one Bill Thompson, an apparent drifter who finds himself starting over in small town Montana. After quickly finding a job as a short-order cook and a place to stay for a week at a time he begins to settle in to an almost idyllic life and setting. The simple life gets even better as it becomes evident he has a knack for innovative ideas for the restaurant, earning him raises and praise. He also begins a romantic relationship with a local librarian and it seems as if life couldn’t get any better. Indeed, the only clue that all is not right with his life is the single shot of whiskey each night before bed.
Lawrence Block is adept at storytelling in general but I think where he truly shines is in the everyday interactions of his characters. They seem so real and in this case, it is easy to root for Bill Thompson and hope he can keep his simple and charming situation going. But there are subtle hints along the way that suggest there is more to his backstory than we know and in fact it may be really, really bad. The gut punch is coming but we hope it won’t arrive. So it’s a bit of a mystery story…the mystery being a combination of who is this guy really, and from what may he be trying to escape? Or is that just a red herring and is something else completely different going on?
I really enjoyed reading this story and although I might wish it was longer so I could spend more time with Bill and the other characters, I recognize that the length is pretty much exactly what it needed to be. Most readers will complete this in an hour or perhaps little more.
Much thanks to Subterranean Press and NetGalley for the free copy in return for an honest review. ...more