LEAVING KANSAS by Frank Roderus


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Harrison Wilke, ""a man without violence,"" is the hapless hero of this laconically comic western--a young, educated, somewhat nebbishy fellow who's decidedly unhappy to be working on his rough Uncle Stew's ranch in turn-of-the-century Kansas. Harrison gets hurt a lot while reluctantly trying to rope cattle and such; he remains fearfully silent when he sees three surly Texans around the area, even though he's convinced that they're responsible for a recent outbreak of rustlings. And even when Uncle Stew disappears on one of his many cattle-gathering expeditions, Harrison meekly keeps mum about his suspicions of foul play. Meanwhile, however, this vaguely likable milquetoast is falling in love with shopkeeper's daughter Martha Trope, who seems happy to save him a Saturday-night dance--or to kiss him in the moonlight . . . notwithstanding her simultaneous attachment to ""handsome, empty-headed, rustic Jesse Howard,"" a local cowboy who mocks Harrison (and helps him out of a few scrapes). So, eventually, Harrison will be roused--by passion--to action of sorts: determined to marry Martha and rescue her from ""eternal crudity"" in Kansas, he appropriates $4000 of absent Uncle Stew's cash for an investment scheme suggested by a young bank-teller chum; later, when Martha's betrothal to Jesse Howard is announced, Harrison angrily attacks Jesse, then accuses those Texans (Jesse's pals) of both rustling and murder. And finally, before lynchings ensue, a horrified Harrison learns that his accusations are false, that the real culprit is a (slightly surprising) trusted friend, that Uncle Stew is alive and well. . . and that he'd better leave Kansas pronto. A western for those who don't demand gunplay or tough-guy heroes: leisurely, gently amusing, and (despite some anachronistic slang) folksily appealing.

Pub Date: Aug. 19th, 1983
Publisher: Doubleday