An intriguing but flawed debut Western.


A Pinkerton detective doggedly pursues an old enemy in Fetter’s debut historical novella.

In 1882, a train is hauling a massive shipment of bank notes and gold from San Francisco to Tucson, Arizona. Someone tips off the outlaw Barksdale Gang, who intercept the delivery. But they didn’t anticipate running into Pinkerton agent Henry Wheeler, who’s traveling undercover as a mild-mannered Bible salesman. Wheeler, a Confederate Civil War veteran, served in the same unit as the gang’s leader, Kirby Barksdale, and his little brother, Danny; together, they raided Union supply trains until Kirby’s betrayal resulted in Wheeler’s injury and capture. The war is long over now, but for Wheeler, old wounds haven’t healed, and he aims to bring Kirby to justice. However, things don’t go as planned, and a bloody clash results in the deaths of gang members and railroad employees. Kirby escapes with most of the cash, while Wheeler locks Danny up in a Tucson jail, overseen by a morally dubious deputy. Wheeler makes plans to intercept Kirby and recover the funds, and Danny’s incarceration becomes complicated when a clever saloon worker gets involved in an attempt to free him. The book concludes with an unrelated short story, set decades later, about a grifter trying to steal an isolated prospector’s hidden gold. Fetter’s readable style evocatively captures the story’s hardscrabble, desolate environment. Even the most loathsome characters retain some shred of humanity, as exemplified by cruel Kirby’s genuine love for his brother. However, there are some moments of awkward prose (“The young outlaw averted the salesman’s gaze”), and the book’s tendency toward lengthy exposition robs some potentially powerful moments of their impact, giving the brief narrative a disjointed and compressed quality. Characters with a notable Western twang to their speech get the best dialogue; the more buttoned-up characters come off as less realistic.

An intriguing but flawed debut Western.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-9997326-0-1

Page Count: 184

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: June 8, 2018

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A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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