After a 10-year gap, Bryant (The Big Lonesome, Escape from Sonora, Blue Russell) returns with another high-spirited Western...



After a 10-year gap, Bryant (The Big Lonesome, Escape from Sonora, Blue Russell) returns with another high-spirited Western romp. This time the setting is 1923 Arizona and the accent is on humor as a roguish aviator helps a winsome family outwit a group of thugs. The leading man here is flyboy-turned-rumrunner Maynard Gaylen, but the novel's heroic heart beats loudest inside crazed desert-rat Hector Callard, an old coot who splits his time between perfecting a perpetual-motion machine and fending off imagined enemies. He thinks Gaylen one of these when the flyer, on the run from lawmen, lands his booze-laden plane near Hector's isolated shack. Hector's pretty grandniece Lexie turns up in time to save Gaylen from a shotgun blast--and to drive him into Tucson, where trouble brews in the form of her loutish brother-in-law, J.W. Whitlock, who's arrived in town to demand custody of his son, Jason, Lexie's nephew and ward. Determined to keep Jason, Lexie asks Gaylen to hide away the boy at Hector's shack. Meanwhile, setting the table for a clever comedy of errors that drives the book's remainder, two thugs identify J.W. as the man who reputedly stole gold from Pancho Villa's army; when he disappears the next day (actually to a brothel), the thugs wrongly assume that he's stashed the gold with Hector. But when the two race out to Hector's shack, the old inventor thinks they're after his perpetual-motion machine and escapes with Jason into the hills. A comic chase gallops through the novel's last third, as Hector employs an old soldier's canniness (and a sackful of tarantulas) to keep the thugs at bay, Jason learns a lesson in courage and friendship, and a romancing Gaylen and Lexie, accompanied by scores of townspeople, follow in hot pursuit of the thugs. Neat twists spiral into a bittersweet ending, wherein it's revealed that there is no gold, but there is a perpetual-motion machine--of a sort. As much fuss as action: the Keystone Cops chase soon wears thin. But chock-full of charming characters, and a real heartwarmer overall.

Pub Date: June 15, 1987


Page Count: -

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1987