Monday, June 15, 2009

East of the River (The Gunsmith #328) by Robert J. Randisi writing as J.R. Roberts (Western series)

Clint Adams, better known as the Gunsmith, knows he's in for trouble whenever he goes east of the Mississippi, but a high-stakes poker game in Ajax, Indiana, is too good to pass up. When he finds it's been called off, he's irked, but you can't reasonably expect to receive a telegram when you're constantly on the move. His ersatz host recommends the nearby town of Dexter, where Clint gets himself embroiled in a Deputy U.S. Marshal's search for evidence against some local bank robbers.

I don't know what money Clint lives on; he doesn't seem to be selling guns like he did in the earlier books in the series. [Update: see author comment.] But he helps out at least 3 people in this story and sees not a cent from any of them, apart from the occasional free beer or roll in the hay. But suspension of disbelief notwithstanding, author J.R. Roberts (in reality Robert J. Randisi) has produced yet another entertaining page-turner with East of the River.

Roberts/Randisi has a very visual style that could easily translate to the screen. The author even changes perspective often during action scenes — as if he were editing the program "in the camera," so to speak — which keeps the mind alert. In general, he doesn't linger on a scene; he has his characters tell us what we need to know, and he moves on. I read the whole of East of the River in about ninety minutes.

Which brings me to my only complaint regarding this book: it's just too short. The story is thin and wouldn't stand for much expansion, but calling East of the River a novel is a stretch, even compared to other entries in the series. The large type, wide margins, and the fact that all the chapters begin on the right-hand page (very often leaving a blank facing page) all suggest that even the publisher had a hard time getting it to look like a book worth paying six dollars for. And there may lie the issue in a nutshell: I don't usually pay full price for books, but when I do, I want to feel I got my money's worth.

Luckily, Randisi is an always entertaining and sometimes even innovative writer. Possibly in response to those readers of series Westerns who complain that the obligatory sex scenes get in the way of the story (or even stop it cold), in East of the River he has cross-cut a scene of one kind of action with a scene of another kind, folding them together like the cards in a shuffling deck. Just one more reason that The Gunsmith is my favorite Western series.


David Cranmer said...

I will read this. Mr. Randisi never fails to supply a rip roaring page turner. I have Beauty And The Bounty on tap next.

Robert J. Randisi said...

Wanted to thank you for the kind words about the Gunsmith series and tell you that I'm taking steps to make the books longer, even before I read your review. Also, as to the Gunsmith's money, I've said in past books that he has money in various banks, that he earns from different business--saloons, hotels--that he co-owns throughout the West. I didn't want him to always have to be looking for a job.

Thanks for being a Gunsmith fan.


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