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by Bart Paul

Pub Date: April 1st, 2013
ISBN: 978-1-61145-836-7
Publisher: Arcade

Paul (Double Edge Sword, 2009) makes his fiction debut with a tale of greed and violence set in California’s Sierra Nevada.

It’s spring. Tom Smith and Lester Wendover, saddle buddies and guides for high-country horseback expeditions, are up along a mountain trail clearing avalanche debris. In the morning light, Tom spies aircraft wreckage above the timberline. The two climb to investigate, discovering the pilot’s body, "more like a mummy than a something out of an old National Geographic, a photograph of...that Bronze Age guy who took an arrow up in the Alps." It’s the body of a monthslong-missing billionaire adventurer, with a trophy wife wanting him declared dead and a wastrel son preferring the billionaire’s new will not be filed. Tom served two tours in Iraq as a sniper. Lester is the proverbial good ol’ boy. Without Tom noticing, Lester impulsively strips a Rolex and cash from the wreckage. Later, when Tom learns what Lester has done, he realizes they can't report finding the wreck without being crucified by the law and the media as "body robbers," even though Deputy Sarah Cathcart might have the hots for him. He demands they trek back up to the crash site and replace the purloined items. They do, only to find the corpse missing, replaced by a forged note indicating the pilot survived. In the meantime, Lester and Callie, his good-time girlfriend, have contacted both the trophy wife and the son, Gerald Q, who's immersed in the Miami gangster lifestyle. That brings lawyers from Los Angeles and drug-smuggling Cubanos to the high Sierras. Tom’s trusty .270 Remington deer rifle and Leupold scope solve problems for several Miami gunmen before Gerald Q’s fake suicide becomes the drug lord’s alibi. Paul writes with spare, clean, hard-driving prose that skates along morality's knife-edge—writing reminiscent of Cormac McCarthy and James Lee Burke—all the while layered with lush, keenly observed descriptions of the natural world and man’s place in it.

Wild-country noir with gripping, compelling action.