Cattle drivers battle Native Americans, rustlers, and soreheaded farmers in this Western.
Morris’ (The Edge of Forever, 2010) rip-snortin’ sequel finds legendary Texas Ranger Raifford MacReynolds; his wife, Kathryn; his straight-shooting 15-year-old stepson, Tom McKlarren; and Tom’s sweetheart, Sara, back at their ranch on the Waco frontier in the turbulent aftermath of the Civil War. They finish old business when The Wolf, the Comanche chieftain who kidnapped Kathryn and Sara in The Edge of Forever, returns seeking vengeance and gets a bloody welcome. Then Raifford and Tom add their 1,000 cows to the 6,000 head that cattle baron Henry Kleyburn is driving north to the railroad at Sedalia, Missouri. Raifford heads a security detail featuring 20 heavily armed Rangers and a stone-faced Apache scout named Bad Thing, who wears a necklace of finger bones taken from vanquished foes. Raifford and his men have their work cut out for them as the cattlemen are assailed by another Comanche war party, a gang of bushwhackers, Kansas “regulators” running an extortion racket under threat of stampeding the herd, a posse trying to arrest two Mexican cowboys on false charges, and a band of varmints that includes Jesse James. There are also quieter wrangles with Cherokees seeking payment for safe passage across Indian Territory and Missouri farmers voicing concerns that the Texas longhorns will spread fever to their own cattle. As in his preceding book, Morris steeps readers in what is essentially a military campaign as Raifford and Tom constantly scan the horizon for concealed enemies and ambush sites, calculate rifle ranges and assault routes, and plan convoluted surprise attacks. The action is often gripping, as in a white-knuckle pursuit of The Wolf by Raifford and Tom through terrain dotted with hidden firing points. But Raifford and company so outclass the black hats that, with the body count surging into the triple digits, the violence doesn’t always feel sporting. Still, Morris’ mix of classic cowboy opera with well-observed period details, colorful characters, and sublime dialogue—“If you stop wiggling your head around, he’ll fix the noose so it’ll break your neck. Otherwise you’ll be dancing on thin air for a while”—makes for a savory read.
An entertaining frontier shoot’em-up.