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The Master Executioner

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  120 Ratings  ·  19 Reviews
Ordinary people do not understand Oscar Stone. Everything he does, he does impeccably. He is a profound student of his art, completely versed in its traditions over the centuries. He is a student of ropes and their properties, a master of the latest scientific knowledge about the human neck, a careful calculator of weights and drops, and an exacting observer of results.

Hardcover, First Edition, 270 pages
Published June 23rd 2001 by Forge Books (Tom Doherty Associates)
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Aug 27, 2008 rated it really liked it
This was a very good book. Not at all a traditional western, "The Master Executioner" is the story of Oscar Stone, civil war veteran turned carpenter turned hangman.

Stone is an interesting man, apprenticed to both a master carpenter and a studied executioner, he becomes exceptional at both trades. His skill at carpentry is what births both his marriage and his turn at the noose, and his skill at the noose is what destroys both marriage and carpentry career.

Stone and his teacher Rudd are both w
Apr 25, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: western
This is an excellent western novel with a bit of a twist. Instead of the usual novel of frontier justice and revenge with Colt's and Winchesters smoking up the plains here we have the story of one man. A Civil War veteran that finds his way into an apprenticeship with a carpenter. He makes his way to Kansas where he is commissioned to build a gallows. There he meets the hangman and begins a new apprenticeship and begins his move towards The Master Executioner.
This book really has a lot going for
Feb 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
I thought this book was well written and really interesting--i liked how the author approached the whole topic of life in that time period and the aspect of execution particularly. It was pretty creative to cover the topic by telling the story of an executioner -- how he got that job, how he deals with the work, the affect it has on his own psyche & relationships or lack thereof, etc. It was absorbing and a bit educational, as well, with a dallop of sadness to round it out.
Aug 23, 2010 rated it liked it
This is a biography of a hangman. He was called to the profession by an older master who taught him everything he knew and eventually retired to become a preacher. Our hangman, Oscar, was drawn to the veteran executioner Rudd because of the precision of his techniques. Trained as a carpenter, Oscar was fascinated by the physics of the job. Rudd showed him the ropes and their properties, how to stretch and oil and tie them, how to calculate weights and drops, and how to find the exact placement ...more
Nov 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: westerns
Published in 2001, this novel captures something of the sobering mood of that year. It’s about life and death and choices with unexpected consequences. Not really a story, it’s a character study of a young man emotionally marked by wartime atrocity. A Union soldier, still in his teens, he is witness to a clumsy and ghastly execution by hanging.

At war’s end, Oscar Stone is scarcely eighteen years old and the only surviving member of his family, his one brother dead and buried on the fields of Get
Dec 25, 2009 rated it really liked it
Focused, full of interesting detail & background with a well developed main character. I do like Estleman's work. At the time I read this I was very into Dr Quinn Medicine Woman and this book reminded me of the episode ("Matter of Life and Death"?) where the town has to hang a man and the acting sheriff (Quinn's eldest 'son') isn't up to the job. There was a lot more to 'learning the ropes' than you'd imagine. A good one.
Feb 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
A young carpenter meets a professional hangman and changes careers. A companion piece to Estleman's later book, The Undertaker's Wife. Life in the west from very specific vantage points.
Sep 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Robyn by: 110
These days it is popular to tell people to work and what they love and success will be sure to follow. The Master Executioner is about a man who takes this advice and its impact on his life.

This is not my grandfather's western. It is a modern novel that takes place in the years just after the Civil War and before the turn of the century, when people were migrating in hordes from east to west and industrial innovations were happening so fast the landscape could change from year to year.

Oscar Ston
Jan 28, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: historical, fiction
While the story of Oscar Stone is an interesting and absorbing one, the sparse dialog and focus on the main character (with little development of supporting characters), provides the reader with a very one-sided view of events. There is little sense that the plot is building up to anything important, and the author delivers with a surprisingly anticlimactic ending that leaves the reader feeling confused, frustrated, and bereft. When considering the overall introspective and psychological nature ...more
Matt Howard
Feb 28, 2009 rated it liked it
A novel set in the second half of the 19th century in the American West. Explores the psychology of a professional hangman, who must come to terms with his isolation and reasons why he continues in his occupation despite loss of his wife and hostility from the public. Explores the change in his life as electric chairs replace hanging, and ends with . . . . I won't give it away. Good way to spend some time.
Jan 31, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: action, adventure, western
#12 in the American West series. 2002 Western Heritage Award for Outstanding Western Novel.

The American West series - Hangman Oscar Stone is a master executioner, who prides himself on his careful and exacting work, until a sudden moment of realization and devastating truth forces him to come to terms with himself and his profession.

Dec 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Despite the grisly subject matter, this book was written in the style of classical literature. I appreciated the attention to detail, and the story expressed the feelings of the executioner quite well.
Susannah Goldstein
Nov 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
This was great. I never would've read it if I weren't assigned to read a modern Western this week, but I'm so glad I did. Oscar Stone is a great character, and I loved the macabre science of it all.
May 23, 2014 rated it liked it
This is a well-written novel set in the west in the post-Civil War era. The author shares a lot of history of that period and the science behind the making of a true master of a hangman.
Diane Wachter
Mar 01, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
HB-B @ 2001, 7/01. The story of a carpenter-turned hangman in the years after the civil war. How he perfected his craft, how he inadvertently hanged his own son, how he met his death. Interesting.
Sep 12, 2012 rated it it was ok
Interesting, and a quick read, but I did not really think the ending was earned.
Dec 18, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, westerns
A fine, but depressing character study of a hangman who in the end has nothing else but the mechanics -- and history, of his trade. To date, the best Estelman novel I have read.
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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 about Loren D. Estleman
“appeared fierce, but Oscar decided this was due more to the fact that his face was still cut and swollen from” 0 likes
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