Monday, October 5, 2009

Outlaw's Reckoning: a Ralph Compton novel by Marcus Galloway (Western)

Gus McCord and Doyle Hill are engaged in one of their favorite pastimes, robbing a stagecoach, when a man named Mason gets especially protective of his black case. Their interest piqued, the duo soon find it contains a woman's clothes covered in blood.

The woman is Abigail Swann, and her father is a very powerful man. Mason is part of the crew involved in the kidnapping. Surprising his partner, the one-eyed Gus decides to do the noble thing and rescue Miss Swann, and Doyle goes along. ("[He's] my conscience," Doyle says at one point.)

I've enjoyed the Westerns of Ralph Compton — whether by the man himself (The Goodnight Trail) or, more recently, by others writing under his name (Joseph A. West's The Man from Nowhere) — for a couple of years now. They manage to combine traditional Western tropes like trail drives, stagecoach robberies, and gunfights with more modern approaches like personal redemption, strong female characters, and the occasional serial killer (David Robbins's Rio Largo).

The writer behind Outlaw's Reckoning is Marcus Galloway. Galloway has written two previous Compton novels, The Bloody Trail and Death of a Bad Man. He is also the author of two prominent Western series of his own: The Accomplice featuring Doc Holliday and The Man from Boot Hill, which chronicles the adventures of professional mourner Nick Graves. (He has also ghostwritten for a couple of monthly Western series, and he writes the Skinners series of werewolf-hunter horror novels under his birth name Marcus Pelegrimas.)

Marcus Galloway has a easily flowing prose style that allows the reader to get straight into the story with no obstacles of language. And, though I can respect a word craftsman, most often all I want is some simple escapism. All of the author's characters are strongly drawn; they come easily to the mind's eye and are distinctive through their dialogue.

Galloway also leavens the suspense of Outlaw's Reckoning with a great deal of humor, primarily coming from the interactions of Gus and Doyle with their conflicting quirks, grudging respect, and antagonistic friendship, there's obviously also a love there. Gus and Doyle are one of the great mismatched teams. They continually get on each other's nerves, but each also fully respects the other's skills because they complement each other so well.

I had hoped for further adventures of the duo, but Galloway has unfortunately slammed the door tight on any possibilities for a sequel to Outlaw's Reckoning. Nevertheless, I'll keep an eye open for any future Ralph Compton novels by this author, in addition to seeking out his other work. (I'm especially curious about those werewolf novels.)

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