Fackler (Barbed Wire, 1986), in the third of a series about a ruthless outlaw, weaves a captivating tale of Western life in the late 19th century. The story opens with Seth Strummar taking responsibility for his five-year-old son. New family obligations prove difficult to bear after a lifetime of theft and murder, and Seth struggles to adjust. His current riding partner, Joaquin, emerges as instrumental in persuading Seth to turn his back on his past in order to care for his son. Key to Seth's reform is his ruthless and relentless abuse of women, developed in flashbacks to his early outlaw career with his mentor and partner in crime, Ben Allister. Out of loyalty to and love for Ben, Seth seduced women while allowing Ben to watch and then beat the women. The graphic and violent sex scenes are, for the most part, peripheral to--and occasionally excessive for--the development of the characters, though they do explain Seth's failure at relationships. Fackler ingeniously maps a tale of intense love and friendship between Seth and Ben, intimating that, at least for Ben, the love would have grown into more if not for the repressive social attitudes towards homosexuality characteristic of the period. Nearly bringing Seth down with him, Ben eventually buries himself in alcohol and despair, his ghost haunting Seth throughout the story. Although constantly tempted to resume old habits, Seth finds himself caught up in the excitement and fascination of his son. Again, Fackler presents a side of the macho cowboy not often seen in westerns by developing an intimate relationship between the father and young child. Finally, after intense internal battle, Seth chooses to create a stable home for his son, to be shared by his lover, partner, and close friends. Innovative attention to character development places this book on the cutting edge of new westerns.