A Western adventure explores the danger and excitement of the stagecoach era.
In this latest foray into the Old West from Harris (A Novel Journey, 2019, etc.), readers are introduced to colorful driver Stagecoach Willy and his taciturn shotgun messenger, Ten. The two are dragged down from their mountaintop retirement cabin for a special assignment. They have to carry $250,000 in cash and gold and plans for a new type of sawmill from Portland, Oregon, to Sacramento. There is a wrinkle to which the old partners must agree. The plans are locked in a briefcase held by Kate Warren, a beautiful Pinkerton agent. To put Willy’s and Ten’s minds at ease, Kate lists her credentials, adding: “I can’t pee standing up, but I can do just about everything else you boys can do.” Kate quickly proves herself, even stopping the first attempt to rob the partners of their cargo. The group even adds a passenger, Sydney, a dog that was being mistreated at one stop. The quartet settles into the challenging routine of rolling from stop to stop over often treacherous roads, looking out for trouble. The four also bond as a result of their exhilarating exploits. In this first installment of a series, Harris deftly summons the spirits of the old pulps for a new generation. Long before armored cars, stagecoaches transported important cargo. The author’s intrepid odd couple have a history of success: The two men never lost a load during their time together. The gregarious Willy always has a story to tell, and Ten, too often his friend’s audience of one, longs for the quiet of his cabin. While this pair isn’t terribly nuanced, Kate proves a deeper character, being orphaned and ending up the head of her family at too young an age. The author’s thorough research is apparent in his vivid descriptions of the stagecoach life. What results is an invigorating novella with the feel of a fast-paced movie serial from yesteryear, which will leave readers pondering what will happen next to the heroes.
This lively series opener reveals why Wild West tales continue to entertain.