I picked this book because I wanted to borrow an audiobook from the library and didn’t know what I wanted. How about a western? Isn’t there an author Zane Grey? So, this isn’t by Zane Grey senior, which I didn’t know until I borrowed it. I basically picked it because of the name, which fellow geeks will recognize as the name of antique laser gun stolen by the cast of Serenity in the awesome show Firefly. Hey, there are worse reasons to choose a book.
What can I say about this book? It’s a western. Steely-eyed men, damsels in distress, treacherous cowhands, duplicitous sheriffs, and at the center of it all, Lassiter, the man’s man. He can out-fight the bare-knuckle champ, out-draw the hired killer, and seduce any fe-male he takes a fancy to. He’s basically Buckaroo Banzai of Northern Arizona in the 19th century. The narrator does a very good job for the men and a passable job for the women.
The ornery Mr. Rudd wants to take all the land through the power he’s amassed through his pool. Everyone’s afraid of him, everyone, that is, except our hero. His pool has Ally Carrington’s (one of aforementioned damsels in distress) K – 27 ranch surrounded, and if he can get Lassiter and Devlin to join their DL ranch to the pool, they can hem her in. Naturally, Lassiter is resistant. He seems to have superhuman abilities, such as the ability to heal a broken hand in less than a week with no cast. (You have to take time with a wounded hand, because it likes to heal.)
The plot takes a rather contrived route. One man rather implausibly descends into a self-destructive spiral on account of a woman he barely knew marrying someone else. Then the crooked sherriff and apparently an entirely crooked and stupid jury accuse another woman of murder, based on implausible testimony and bad forensic evidence (surely even 19th century yokels would realize that if a man were killed by a gunshot wound, he would have dried blood on him? It did bother me to think that a woman would be hanged on hearsay for a dead man she happened to know, when a man who murdered another man was most likely off the hook as long as the corpse in question tendered an insult or looked at him wrong, or happened to be facing the murderer when he died. I tried to set my feminist ire aside.) In the end, the inconvenient people get killed and some convenient marriages are arranged, and Lassiter starts hankering to see what’s over the next horizon.
The writing is not notably strong. Scenes are repeated, and plot is re-summarized, as if for a serial novel. The setting seemed clear enough, but I happened to be actually in the area it was set in while I was listening to it, so maybe that’s me. But hey, it’s a western. It’s meant to be an action story set in a lawless west. It’s a fantasy about when black people didn’t exist, women had fewer rights than horses, and you could be shot dead in the street before the age of thirty with only a faint hope your death would be avenged. But that’s a little harsh. Don’t let my liberal cynicism ruin it for you. It was a fun book, if you don’t think about it too much. I do have to wonder, how long will it be before people romanticize and novelize life in the crime-ridden inner city projects? Maybe it’s already happening. Do little boys have gangster action figures, and cartoon gangsters on their bedsheets?
The plot is brisk, the characters larger-than-life, the dialogue and mores charmingly antique, and the writing was straightforward. This won’t likely convert non-western fans to the western genre, but if you already like western novels, it’s pretty much par for the course.