Slade River

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.

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5245-4635-9

Page Count: 102

Publisher: Xlibris

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2017

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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THE VANISHING HALF

Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in white society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her white persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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