Saturday, December 8, 2007

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

Author Joseph A. West's second novel under the Ralph Compton name, Vengeance Rider, is a vast improvement over his first, Doomsday Rider. The plot takes place ten years after the previous book. Buck Fletcher is now retired and married, with a daughter who has a terminal illness. Only a trip overseas can possibly save her life, but Fletcher doesn't have the money. The only chance he has is to take his best horse to a race in another part of the country; if he wins, he get the $10,000 he needs.

But the plot's not the part of Vengeance Rider I liked. It's the characterizations. Fletcher is more mature and grounded this time around, and he meets up with Doc Holliday on his way to the horse race.

West's portrait of Holliday is fantastic and filled with the things that make this mythic figure so popular — though few authors have been able to make him quite so interesting. It's one of the few times I've seen the old dentist practically "leap off the page," so to speak. Figuratively speaking, I often felt while listening to Vengeance Rider (again read with skill by Terry Evans) that Doc Holliday was riding in the seat next to me. I commend Joseph A. West for taking this necessary step up in quality. Now, I will be much more likely to pick up other books by him.

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