Saturday, March 2, 2013

Longarm and the Ambush at Holy Defiance by Peter Brandvold writing as Tabor Evans (2013 Longarm Giant)

I'm glad to see the return of the giant editions of the adult Western series, which have been on a general hiatus since 2010. Longarm and the Ambush at Holy Defiance begins with an exciting scene aboard a train, with Deputy U.S. Marshal Custis Parker Long, known popularly as "Longarm," taking on an entire gang of owlhoots singlehandedly.

It ends with a similarly rousing confrontation, and the middle ain't too shabby, either.

After the train tussle, Longarm asks for some well-deserved time off. But Chief Marshal Billy Vail denies his request, sending him straight off to the town of Holy Defiance, Arizona.

Vail wants Longarm to find out what happened to some Arizona Rangers and U.S. marshals who've not been heard from since they were sent to investigate the location of a gold shipment (insured by the Pinkerton agency) that was stolen from a stagecoach.

And he wants Longarm to go with a Pinkerton as his partner. But Longarm meets his match in Pinkerton agent Haven Delacroix.  Not only is she as good at her job as he is at his, and as brave and proud to boot, but they're also both horndogs of equal measure.

Because of this, the contractually obligated sex scenes in Longarm and the Ambush at Holy Defiance actually serve to add an extra level of tension between the pair of protagonists. They spend at least as much time thinking about each other as they do about the case.

Author Peter Brandvold, writing under the house name Tabor Evans, does not choose to continue the tradition of having Longarm work with Jessie Starbuck and Ki from the Lone Star series. (This was begun with the first Longarm Giant, Longarm and the Lone Star Legend, continued for a while, then abandoned until the thread was picked up again by James Reasoner.)

But this is hardly a disappointment, since Brandvold brings his own energetic storytelling skills to Longarm and the Ambush at Holy Defiance, making it the most gripping read of the series yet and confirming my opinion of him as the best Western writer working today.

(An observation: Once, while reading The Devil's Lair, an entry in Brandvold's series of Westerns featuring bounty hunter Lou Prophet, I was struck by the similarity between that novel and this series, especially since the plot involved Prophet's taking over a marshal's post.  This feeling was confirmed during Longarm and the Ambush at Holy Defiance when I caught two accidental references to Longarm as "Prophet.")

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