THE DENTON MARE by Duane DeMello

THE DENTON MARE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

An intriguing historical novel based on the life of Texas outlaw Sam Bass.

Anyone remotely familiar with Old West lore will know the title of DeMello’s debut novel must somehow involve the legendary Bass (1851-1878), a Texas businessman who owned and raced the renowned “Denton Mare” to wide acclaim before taking up the more infamous vocation of train and stagecoach robbing that earned him his place in history. Focusing mainly on Bass’s post-Denton thieving days, DeMello paints a sympathetic portrait of this curiously genteel bandit dubbed by some the “Texas Robin Hood” because of his proclivity for freely leaving $20 gold pieces to cover services rendered and his deep aversion to killing–even hurting–those he robbed. Bass and his small gang’s most famous heist occurred on Sept. 18, 1877, at Big Spring Station, Neb., yielding them $60,000 in freshly minted $20 gold pieces, the largest sum ever taken from the Union Pacific railway. While that job won Bass and Co. near instant fame and the hot, very public pursuit of the Texas Rangers, Bass and what remained of the gang executed subsequent holdups with only amateurish competence and grander plans for a bank robbery in Round Rock, Texas, less than a year after their big score netted the unexpected results DeMello uses as a starting point for his rendering of the Bass saga. Told through the eyes of Bass and a key member of his gang, Jim “Judas” Murphy, the narrative alternates between past and present, as both characters rue defining moments of their young lives. Such dreamscape-y narrative interweaving makes for the only muddled blemish on this mostly clear-cut adventure. DeMello’s choice to humanize Bass, exploring his allegiance to friends and somewhat forbidden love for his girlfriend, lends an intriguing depth to his sensationalistic exploits and will cause readers to question what turned this otherwise decent, likable fellow to a life of crime.

One of the Old West’s most beloved mustachioed villains rides again in this fictional account, perpetuating the memory of a fascinatingly complex figure.

Pub Date: April 18th, 2008
ISBN: 978-1-4363-0416-0
Program: Kirkus Indie
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