An old-fashioned Western extolling the heroic exploits of two Texas Rangers in the 1800s.
Shambley offers a debut historical novella in the style of a buddy movie. Mike Rivers was a bounty hunter who always got his man before he became the sheriff of Applegate, Texas. One day, he returns home after tracking a killer to discover that the Clayton brothers, whom he’d arrested some years ago, have murdered his wife and son. Rivers resigns as sheriff, tracks down the Claytons, and is about to exact vengeance when he runs into Texas Ranger Tom Slade. The lawman intervenes, arrests the brothers, and then convinces Rivers to join him as a Ranger. The narrative is divided into five sections; in the first, the two main characters become partners, and the rest detail various episodes over the course of the next several years. For some reason, Shambley sets the second section, “Rustlers,” 15 years after the first, while the third, “Payday,” jumps back 14 years. As a result, the episodes seem more like stand-alones than a continuing story. There are some mysteries to solve (who’s stealing cattle in “Rustlers”; who’s behind the stagecoach robberies in “Payday”), a few gunfights, and some light banter. Mike is shot at in “Lost” and gets knocked unconscious when he falls off his horse; an old mountain man cares for him while he gradually recovers from amnesia. (His trusty and very protective dog, Sam, never leaves his side.) Mike is shot at again in the final section, “Friends In Need.” By the end of this quick read, Shambley makes it clear the two friends, despite some mishaps, will continue to protect and serve. The narrative is plot-driven, simple, and competent, with minimal character definition or development, although readers do find out more information about Mike than they do about Tom. It’s easy to imagine the two staring down bad guys in an old, clean TV Western, such as Gunsmoke. The pace is comfortable throughout, and the format lends itself to readers casually and sporadically picking the book up for quick distractions.
A pleasant escape that’s light on tension, suitable for fans of the genre.