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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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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A LITTLE LIFE

Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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