Family dramas propel this spare, anti-romantic Western.
The title may be slightly misleading: While this Western takes place in the mountainous West Texas region, the emphasis is mostly on the “scalp” part. As a Texas Ranger explains to a friend’s Baltimore-born wife, when it comes to scalping, “Sister, we all do it. The rangers do it, the feuding folks do it to each other, to white folks just like them, the feathered folks all do it, I know for a fact the Comanch onest scalped a white man’s dog.” Robb’s debut doesn’t graphically describe the violence promised by this statement, but it doesn’t paper over it with any romantic notions either. There’s more here of Cormac McCarthy than Zane Gray, especially in the character of Colum McNeal, with his fierce temper and dream of settling down to breed horses. Unfortunately for that dream, McNeal is hunted by an Apache who blames him for the death of his son; and by a man who may have been hired by McNeal’s father after Colum was involved in a family tragedy. The issue of parents and sons is emphasized by Colum’s more-than-friendly interest in his friend’s wife, who is raising an adopted Apache child, the last surviving son of the Apache hunting Colum. The kidnapping and effort to rescue this child dominate the second half of the book, giving the novel a propulsive plot that some of the earlier chapters lack. But the occasionally episodic structure allows Robb to dip in and out of characters’ heads to give their points of view: No one is a villain in their own mind, and every character here has a tale to tell—often violent, potentially redemptive, at least sympathetically told. Occasional slips may bump the reader out of the story, such as when a character refers to a “hale” of bullets, rather than a “hail”; or when a horse’s “bridle” becomes a “bridal.” Perhaps the addition of a map might also help readers unfamiliar with this territory.
Deep research and empathy for her rounded characters make this Western stand out.
A highly organized, informative discussion of the immigration system in the United States.
In this politically charged environment, Afrasiabi manages to broach the volatile issue of immigration in a well-rounded, surprisingly effective framework that combines case studies, historical research, statistical analysis and personal anecdotes to detail the current issues and propose solutions. Invocations of Kafka, “The Twilight Zone” and “Alice in Wonderland” prove warranted as illustrations of the often surreal circumstances that confront immigrants facing deportation. Immigrants usually lack access to quality legal representation, while their situation can be made doubly difficult due to language barriers and significant cultural differences. Afrasiabi incorporates his work with colleagues and students at the Chapman University School of Law to deftly weave together the facts of several compelling cases and their underlying legal issues, with a genuine sense of suspense as readers wonder if justice will be truly be served. Occasionally, though, the narrative becomes overwrought—two federal laws passed in 1996 are “dark storm clouds depositing their sleet”—although, considering the life-changing effects of court decisions, it’s difficult to overstate the ramifications: extralegal rendition of individuals with pending cases and the de facto deportation of native-born children whose parents are deported. Afrasiabi also addresses the legacy of various anti-alien laws in California, as well as marriage equality for same-sex couples when one partner is a noncitizen. As the subtitle asserts, Afrasiabi employs his additional experience in the field of property law to contrast the stark differences between immigration judges and constitutional judges, like their qualifications, vetting processes and even the oaths they take. His arguments culminate in seven concrete reforms proposed in the conclusion. In order to make the immigration system more just and effective, Afrasiabi claims the solutions are closer than we may think; we can implement procedures and safeguards already in place within the constitutional courts.
A persuasive, valuable addition to the ongoing immigration reform debate.
Walkley pits CIA agents against a maniacal Saudi prince intent on starting World War III in this debut thriller.
Delta Force operative Lee McCloud, aka Mac, finds himself in Mexico, trying to rescue two teenage girls kidnapped by a drug cartel. But things go from bad to worse when the villains don’t play by the rules. Framed for two murders he didn’t commit, Mac has two options: go to prison or go to work for a CIA black-op group run by the devious Wisebaum, who hacks into terrorists’ bank accounts and confiscates millions of dollars. However, there’s more going on than meets the eye; Saudi Prince Khalid is in possession of nuclear canisters, with which he hopes to alter world history. Khalid also dabbles in trafficking young women, and harvesting and selling human organs. When Wisebaum’s black-op team targets Khalid’s father, the action becomes even more intense. With so many interweaving subplots—kidnapped girls, Israeli undercover agents, nuclear weapons and a secret underwater hideout—it could be easy to lose track of what’s going on. But the author’s deft handling of the material ensures that doesn’t occur; subplots are introduced at the appropriate junctures and, by story’s end, all are accounted for and neatly concluded. Mac is portrayed as a rough and ready action-hero, yet his vulnerabilities will evoke empathy in readers. He finds a love interest in Tally, a hacker whose personality is just quirky enough to complement his own. All Walkley’s primary characters are fleshed out and realistic, with the exception of Wisebaum—a malicious, double-dealing, back-stabber of the worst ilk; the reader is left wondering about Wisebaum’s motivations behind such blatant treachery.
Despite this, Walkley’s beefy prose and rousing action sequences deliver a thriller to satisfy any adrenaline addict.