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Cowboy poet Black's debut, ""a rodeo novel,"" is fast out of the chute, but a cluttered, corny ride. A former bull rider, Black offers a saga set in the early 1980s, when professional rodeo athletes were still cowboys. Cody of Ten Sleep, Wyo., and his Texan buddy, Lick, travel through a season on the professional circuit. In prose that's a rhapsody to tall tales and the serial comma, the narrative twitches this way and that. Black can't seem to decide whether he's writing a Disney wild ride, with a fantasy cowboy genie who lives in a tin of chewing tobacco and talks in verse; a grisly look at rodeo, where inexperienced riders get killed by 2,000-lb. bulls; a picaresque novel of two young cowboys who want to make it to the finals in Oklahoma City; a love story; or a heehaw burlesque in which, for example, that rascal Lick is stabbed by 87 porcupine quills in his buttocks and genitals, then has them removed by a pretty young doctor, or when he gets dyed purple by his angry sweetheart. In striving to depict the whole three-ring circus, Baxter only occasionally succeeds in capturing any of it. But when he lets his twang down, he gives the reader an absorbing education in rodeo. In the details lies the real romance, and Black whets the reader's appetite for a depth that's missing in his tale of two good ole vaqueros who get thrown, get drunk, and get laid. Still, west of Al Capp, Black's the best silly-name inventor in a while, and his tale of Cody and Lick may offer receptive readers a satisfying escape and some vulgar good yuks. As a rodeo announcer, Black's got the color commentary down cold. What's missing is focus and a more absorbing narrative line.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1994
ISBN: 014025093X
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Crown