A hard-bitten tale of sacrifice in the Wild West.
The spirit of old John Wayne movies is alive and well in this rough-and-tumble western. Denmon takes all the conventions inherent in the traditional horse opera and manages to flesh out a plausible, articulate action novel with a brisk, satisfying pace. The book is set during the last bloody gasp of the Old West, during the early years of the 1900s. Pancho Villa and his minions both terrify and inspire the peasants of northern Mexico as the revolution threatens to devolve into civil war. Into this conflagration enters stalwart Stewart Cook, a wandering caballero whose fiancÃ©e, Alexia Garcia, is lost behind enemy lines. Stewart may not be much of a rescuer by himself, but he’s tough as nails, determined and backed up by a first-class partner with menace to spare: Myles Adams is a classic western hero straight out of the old serials, a lantern-jawed, steely-eyed gunfighter with all the verbal dazzle of Gary Cooper. In fact, the laconic cowpokes do much more talking than shooting, but only after a sudden, brutal gunfight between the partners and some banditos kicks off the action. By the time Myles and Stewart ride into Santiago, Mexico, to mount a jailbreak of Alexia and her entire family, they’ve managed to enrage Jorge Trevino, â€œone immoral, pestilent bastard,” who’s figured out that there’s more money to be made in plundering the war-ravaged populace than in fighting the war itself. Trevino also holds a personal grudge against Myles, not to mention turning a lustful eye toward his mistress. Though they begin with an unappealing genre superficiality, Myles and Stewart eventually become fully formed characters. The story’s framing device–a reconstruction by Myles’ grandson of the bloody battles in Mexico–is unnecessary but innocuous. In between, there’s plenty of dramatic conflict and antiquated bravado to satisfy fans of milder western fare.
A straight-shooting, old-fashioned horse opera.