Welcome to Blazing Saddles, with a much larger cast.
Napierski bases his debut novel on a fictional gold heist in the American West in 1870. The characters come thick and fast, beginning with the wily and disgruntled Col. Fletcher Montgomery, who sets it all in motion, then dies. Then there is the murderous lone wolf Apache Kila Kazara, various lawmen, the Seventh Cavalry, a Pinkerton contingent led by Tyrone “Butch” Zon, a legendary hired gun named Jay Johnstone, another named Eldon James—and that’s the short list. It is rather late in the romp when readers meet the two heroes, the siblings Moonin Canoe and White Owl, half-breed grandsons of Stormbringer, legendary chief in the Black Hills of the Dakotas. This motley bunch tries to figure out how the gold shipment from Denver City to Kansas City got hijacked (an inside job?) and what happened to the loot. And how to steal the more than $250,000 in gold. The action ranges from the Black Hills down to Mexico, and the players range from the inept to the barely competent (with the creditable exception of the two brothers, as befits heroes).The tortuous plot builds to an epic showdown and gun battle in El Paso, Texas—the outcome betrays the cartoonish nature of this yarn—which leads to a chase into the Mexican desert. Some readers may never make it through the labyrinthine story to figure out what happened to most of the gold and who got it. The book is long and involved, and these virtues are also its vices, depending on readers’ sensibilities. Readers who expect a fairly straightforward account of the heist and its aftermath will likely find the book tough going. But giving that up, they can open the novel almost anywhere and enjoy the Keystone Kops high jinks and the outrageous characters. Napierski, who is planning a sequel, is clearly enjoying himself immensely, which encourages readers to do the same.
While it offers a confusing plot, this Western novel about a gold heist delivers plenty of exhilarating characters and madcap escapades.