REVIEWED BY: Marguerite Zelle
MY RECOMMENDATION: YES
AMAZON SUBSCRIPTION LINK: Somebody Dies, by Craig Clarke
WEB ADDRESS: http://somebodydies.blogspot.com/
BLOG DESCRIPTION: Somebody Dies is the premier multi-genre book-review blog, covering crime, horror, and Western fiction (with the occasional digression into other arenas). From the obscure to the mainstream, from forgotten "classics" to the newest releases, everyone can find something to enjoy.
MY REVIEW: This is an excellent book review blog. The author reviews crime, horror and western fiction, "with the occasional digression." His reviews are thorough, covering all aspects of the book in question, something many reviewers don't do. When he reviews audio books, he also gives opinoins as to the quality of the narration, so that's a plus if most of your "reading" is done via audio.
The author averages one review a week, two at the most.
Trail Drive to Montana (Gunsmith #69) by Gary McCarthy writing as J.R. Roberts
Regular readers of this repository of reviews will likely know that I am a big fan of The Gunsmith, which is the only long-running adult Western series still primarily written by a single author under a pseudonym, in this case Robert J. Randisi under the moniker J. R. Roberts. However, he has not written all of them. Randisi stated in a 2007 interview with Saddlebums Western Review that his publisher early on wanted more books than he could turn out on his own. Thus, around 30 of the first 100 were contracted from other authors to fulfill the twelve-a-year quota.
Later, I learned from an interview on Western Fiction Review that author Gary McCarthy, who had written a book I had recently enjoyed called The Pony Express War, had been one of those writers. (He reportedly wrote four Gunsmith novels.) As I enjoy cattle-drive novels, I chose McCarthy's first for the series, Trail Drive to Montana, to see if I could detect a difference in styles.
Actually, it was easy. From page one of Trail Drive to Montana, I would at least have known that it was not from the usual author. Randisi has a fast-paced, easy reading style that utilizes punchy dialogue and short, sharp paragraphs. The first paragraph of this book has 20 lines of small text, and there's no real conversation for five pages. This is not a criticism of either style, merely an illustration of how different they are.
McCarthy shows you the whole picture, and this slows things down a bit compared to the norm for this series, but I must admit to the appeal of seeing ex-lawman and professional gunsmith Clint Adams being genuinely articulate instead of simply a man of action. Even the heroine remarks, "You got a fine way with words, Mr. Adams."
She is Mandy Roe, whom Adams discovers after her horse is killed and she is left stranded underneath it. Her father is Bart Roe, the former outlaw pardoned by the governor and now an innovative cattle breeder in his 80s, who still has as fiery a temper as ever. Or, as Clint says, "He's the craziest old son of a bitch I ever saw in my life." (Having a way with words means you sometimes get right to the point.)
The Roes need to drive their herd of special crossbreeds up to Montana, away from the vengeful Moffit clan, seeking revenge for a 25-year-old transgression. The Gunsmith, in no way a cowboy and actually quite proud of the fact, agrees to accompany them on the journey. Unlike typical Texas longhorns, who are known as "rainbow cattle" for the variety of their hues, the Roe herd is exceptionally uniform in size and color, selected for those attributes in the breeding process.
Dr. Thomas Thom, Bart Roe's brother-in-law and an equal partner in the breeding, makes a connection between the longhorns and Americans. As he puts it, "Crossbreeding almost always results in a more vigorous strain of beef. It accounts for much of the American drive and energy. You see, this country is the greatest bunch of crossbred people in the world.... We are not in-bred like many of the old-line European families. We have greater vigor. So does this herd."
McCarthy fills Trail Drive to Montana with the expected level of action (of both types), and an additonal level of description that makes for a richer read than the typical series novel. He is quickly working his way toward an entry on my list of favorite authors, and I look forward to reading more of his work.
Further reading: For another adult Western series novel about a cattle drive, read Longarm on the Goodnight Trail. For more "respectable" novels on the subject, Ralph Compton's Trail Drive series, starting with The Goodnight Trail, is also a winner. And of course, there's the epic of all Westerns, Larry McMurtry's Pulitzer Prize–winning Lonesome Dove, which also centers around a trail drive.
--Trail Drive to Montana (Gunsmith #69) by Gary McCarthy writing as J.R. Roberts
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