Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Doomsday Rider: a Ralph Compton novel by Joseph A. West (audiobook read by Terry Evans)

When people bad-mouth Westerns, this is the type of Western they mean: the kind that seems to be just be telling an often-told story over again, with very little plot (except for the typical revenge motif) and characters who speak and think in cliches. Here's the summary from the audiobook version of Doomsday Rider:

Framed for a murder that he did not commit, Buck Fletcher is given the chance to redeem his reputation by rescuing a senator's disgraced daughter from a war-torn region of Arizona, braving a band of renegade Apaches, the senator's minions, and a determined bounty hunter along the way.

Pretty straightforward, wouldn't you say? People in this world are either good or bad, and author Joseph A. West is perfectly willing to keep things that way.

I'm usually more interested in Westerns that try to stretch the genre in one way or another, but that is not to say that Doomsday Rider is not a pleasant read. After all, readers looking for their idea of the "typical" Western will likely be pleased by West's second tale featuring Buck Fletcher (author Ralph Compton is deceased; various authors are continuing his legacy in a series of novels that retain his name on the cover).

I found it satisfying as an audiobook. Reader Terry Evans's range of voices gets increasingly more surprising as the book continues. At one point, the text calls for a "fine, high tenor" to sing a song with new lyrics to the tune of "John Brown's Body," and Evans gives it his all, showing that he is more than up to the challenge. Evans's reading, in fact, was good enough to make it easier to overlook Doomsday Rider's other flaws. But for a much better example of a well-written Western, pick up Vengeance Rider (this book's sequel), also read by Evans, or Rio Largo, another Ralph Compton novel written by David Robbins.

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