Monday, December 21, 2009

Charlie and the Sir by Frank Roderus (Western novel)

Charlie Roy was between jobs, spending time loafing at the Union Pacific depot, when he spotted a skinny, well-dressed jasper on the wrong side of a hooraw. The fellow looked on the sickly side, so the affable, good-natured Charlie escorted the gent to his hotel.

Before long, he'd gotten himself employed to drive Sir Arthur Williford-Cooke (for that was the jasper's moniker) and his team north ... just north. Well, sir, Charlie's not one to look sideways at fifty dollars a month, so he buys a sheep wagon with Sir Arthur's money, and aims it (and the dog that came with it) toward the north star. Their eventual destination is the Crown B Ranch, run by Lady Elizabeth Copperton, Sir Arthur's widowed sister.

It seems that the business partner of Lady Elizabeth's late husband wants the Crown B for himself, and he's not above using underhanded tactics to get it. Now, "Miz Copperton" may have a hoity-toity brother, but she's an experienced rancher who's not going to take this lying down. And now she's got the help of Charlie and the Sir.

Author Frank Roderus is a two-time winner of the Spur Award for his novels Leaving Kansas and Potter's Fields. Roderus has published over 300 books in his career (most under pseudonyms or house names), and he is still going strong (as evidenced by the publication of 2009's Harlan).

Charlie Roy is a very appealing character. Roderus's plot is suspenseful and holds the reader's attention throughout (with a few surprises at the end), but what makes this book a real joy to read is Charlie's narration. His language is authentic and colloquial, yet it never feels forced. Most writers who attempt colloquial speech tend to overdo it, but Roderus strikes the perfect balance between the formal and the informal, making Charlie and the Sir a perfect choice for reading out loud.

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