Saturday, April 29, 2017

Review: To Tame a Land by Louis L'Amour

So it's not a mystery or a thriller, but I'm reviewing it here anyways!

Title: To Tame a Land
Author: Louis L'Amour
Genre: Western
Pages 154
Publisher: Bantam
Year pub: 1965 (orig), 2009 (reissue)
Rating: ★★ 2.5 out of 5

To Tame a Land was the first western I have ever read. Normally I read fantasy, science fiction, and mysteries, but on a lark I decided to give the western genre a try. While I know next to nothing about it, I do know that Louis L'Amour was one of the big names in the genre, so I picked up three of his books from the public library (although one of them is a collection of sea stories and not a western). I started with TTL because I came across a thread on a subreddit about L'Amour's books and somebody recommended it as a starter.

The plot in brief: The main character is Ryan "Rye" Tyler who starts the book at age 12 and ends it at 20. His dad is killed by Native Americans after their wagon breaks down and they're left behind by the rest of the wagon train. He survives and makes it back to the wagon train and is taken under the wing of a man named Logan Pollard who teaches him the proper use of his guns and how to survive in the wild.

Now, the thing about Rye is the boy has a body count. He personally kills two of the attacking natives and claims another when he tracks them down for revenge. Did I mention he was 12 at this point? Yikes.

So anyways, after roaming and working for a while, he and Pollard settle in California with a woman from the wagon train that Rye's dad would likely going to end up marrying. She ends up marrying Pollard instead and life is good until one day Rye runs into the man he blames for his father's death. The confrontation ends with Rye shooting the man down and having to leave. From there, he travels around the West and Midwest, gets a job as a horse breaker, falls in love with a girl, leaves, then spends the rest of the book trying to find the girl again.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

A twofer: Shotgun Saturday Night & Cursed to Death by Bill Crider (Sheriff Dan Rhodes Mysteries)

A photographer I ain't.
I don't read a lot of mysteries, but occasionally one will cross my path that I'll find myself reading posthaste. In this case, it was two books that I breezed through in two days. Because they're so short, I decided to include them in the same post rather than separately.

Title: Shotgun Saturday Night
Author: Bill Crider
Series: Sheriff Dan Rhodes Mysteries
Genre: Mystery
Published: 1987 (originally), 1989 (Ivy Books reissue)
Publisher: Ivy Books
Format: Paperback
Pages: 169
Rating: ★★★★☆ 4 out of 5 stars.

The series, as the above says, centers on Dan Rhodes, the Sheriff of fictional Blacklin County, Texas. Shotgun Saturday Night is the second of the series and I started with it literally for no other reason than because none of the public libraries in my area have the first book, Too Late to Die. In any case, Blacklin is a small county of only twenty thousand and its sheriff department is even smaller, accounting only Rhodes, deputies Buddy (I don't believe his last name is ever given or if Buddy is even his real name) and Ruth Grady. I don't know if this is all of the deputies Rhodes has or not, but that seems awfully tiny for a sheriff's department. I know that Andy Taylor made do with just Barney Fife on The Andy Griffith Show, but Blacklin County isn't exactly Mayberry.

Then there's Lawton and Hack Jensen. The former works as the department's jailer and the latter as the dispatcher. They're both well past retirement age, but work for the department for very little just for the sake of having something to do. My favorite running gag of the series revolves around them reporting to Rhodes about a call in of what at first seems like a serious crime but turns out to be nothing of consequence. They string him along by slowly revealing the details until finally revealing what it actually was. For example, in Shotgun Saturday Night, someone calls in about a dead body in a ditch. It's actually an inflatable sex doll.

Another important character is Ivy Daniels, Rhodes' girlfriend/fiancee. She acts as his sounding board and helps where she can with his investigations. Their relationship is a minor plotline, with him trying to process his feelings for her and if he wants it to lead to something more permanent.

Did I mention that this book has one of my favorite opening sentences?
Sheriff Dan Rhodes knew it was going to be a bad day when Bert Ramsey brought in the arm and laid it on the desk.
It certainly hooked me.