Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Slocum and the Witch of Westlake (Slocum #362) by Marcus Galloway writing as Jake Logan (Western series)

While John Slocum was supposed to be guarding the herd of his boss at the Singer Moon Ranch, he was instead making time with Singer's niece Kelly. So, when some of the herd was taken on his watch, Slocum understandably felt a bit guilty and set off to retrieve them.

Confronting Singer's rival rancher Landry results in a surprising confession: "Well, it serves him right.... That son of a bitch hired a witch to curse my ranch!" A witch? Slocum wonders if the man is crazy. Then when more people talk about this so-called witch, he begins to think he's the only sane person left in the county.

Slocum and the Witch of Westlake is the first book I've read in this long-running Western series (nearly 35 years). I do not know whether the word Westlake is a reference to late crime author with that name, but its presence likely swayed my choice of purchase between this and another recent volume.

From the reviews I've read of earlier entries, Slocum and the Witch of Westlake is apparently a bit of a departure. Whereas Slocum previously has been described as cruel by some, in this 362nd novel featuring the character, he seems to have a very stringent moral code.

He refuses to be "hired muscle" and resists getting involved in personal quarrels until he can no longer avoid it. Even the obligatory three sex scenes focus on Slocum's pleasuring of the woman instead of on his own satisfaction. None of this should be construed as complaint, however. In fact, its rather refreshing to read about such a likable and charming fellow.

The story is quickly paced and action-oriented as is expected in this highly popular subgenre (one highlight in a fistfight in a jail cell). All the characters feel like real people where some series Western novels rely on ciphers and stereotypes. Minh, the witch herself, is especially well drawn, and the "curse" subplot is not overused in the place of a realistic narrative.

In addition, Slocum and the Witch of Westlake holds a rich vein of unexpected (and not unintended) humor in addition to some particularly snappy dialogue. I recently learned that it was author Marcus Galloway writing this time under the "Jake Logan" house name, and I am definitely going to seek out more of his work.


David Cranmer said...

I've only read Longarm and one from The Trailsman. This sounds good and if I spot WITCH I'll give it a try.

Craig Clarke said...

This Slocum read means the only series of the four still going I haven't read is Longarm, but I'll be remedying that soon.

David Cranmer said...

J. Reasoner's Longarm and The Pine Box Payoff is the best of about twenty I've read.

Craig Clarke said...

Thanks. I think the one I have is Reasoner's Hangtree Vengeance. I also picked up the double of the first two in the series. Should be interesting to compare.

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