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NEW TRAILS by John Jakes


Twenty-Three Original Stories of the West

edited by John Jakes & Martin H. Greenberg

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-385-46990-X
Publisher: Doubleday

Twenty-three pretty unoriginal original short stories set in the American West, gathered by perennial bestseller Jakes (Homeland, not reviewed, etc.) and anthologizing editor Greenberg (Christmas Out West, not reviewed, etc.). Diversity turns out to be a drawback in this collection. There is something for every western fan here—wagon wheels rolling across dry land, pelts, colts, Colt .45s, homely women, and sinewy men—but the lot of them won't appeal to everyone. And any expectations of wandering along the trail not taken will be dashed; at best these tales are technically competent, at worst they are trite. Most are traditional in content and format. ``Half a Day from Water'' by Gordon D. Shirreffs, Teddy Keller's ``The Day of the Rain,'' and ``Hurrah for Captain Early'' by Elmore Leonard deal straightforwardly and successfully with themes of the treasure hunt, the delivery of justice versus neighborliness, and war heroism. Some of the stories are anecdotal, such as Elmer Kelton's O. Henryesque ``The Burial of Letty Strayhorn,'' in which a man returns to his wife's hometown to bury her ashes, and ``To Challenge a Legend'' by Albert Butler, who shows a boy remembering his marshal grandfather. Women figure prominently in the collection both as authors and characters, but their roles contrast jarringly with their gunslinging companions. Marianne Willman's ``Wildfire'' and ``The Leave-taking'' by Ruth Willett Lanza are romances; in both, ``Oh how I wish I was pretty, too''type heroines are taken care of by their men. Women overcome abusers in Judy Alter's ``Sweet Revenge'' (she kills him) and Lenore Carroll's ``Reunion'' (she watches him die). Indian characters also appear. In Jakes's ``Manitow and Ironhand'' (a tribute to western writer Karl May), a fur trapper teams up with a Native American to defeat an assassin. The Oregon Trail was abandoned in the 1870s. Once-fresh paths have long since been paved over. (Literary Guild selection)