SOUTH OF THE BORDER by John Byrne Cooke

SOUTH OF THE BORDER

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Like Cooke's first novel (The Snowblind Moon, 1985), this western story--about the resurrection of outlaw Butch Cassidy on a Hollywood movie set--is well-researched, well-intentioned, and very dull and plodding. It's southern California, 1919. Our 65-year-old narrator is Charles Siringo, a dime novelist who runs a place called the Bunk House, where aspiring actors get simple room and board. But Siringo (a real-life historical figure) was once a Pinkerton man, chasing outlaws in the Old West, and that's why he's suspicious when a stranger rides onto the set of a silent one-reeler western being shot near the Bunk House. The man calls himself Leroy Roberts, but he looks like Robert Redford--and soon we learn that he's really Butch Cassidy, not dead in Bolivia, but hiding out for lo these 20 years. His secret is safe with Siringo, however, even though Charlie doesn't like Butch romancing the beautiful film star, Victoria Hartford. In any event, the threesome soon travels down to Mexico, Victoria to shoot a film, Charlie and Butch to guard the movie company's budget. There ensues a scrape with Pancho Villa himself (he leches after Victoria, but turns out to be a nice guy, after all), a running gun-battle with the federales--and the marriage of Butch to Victoria. Cooke tries for the relaxed western tone of a Larry McMurtry or a Thomas Berger (in Little Big Man) but his prose is labored, and the novel--for all its historical underpinning--has little storytelling impact.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1989
Publisher: Bantam