Redemption, Kansas by James Reasoner delivers just what I expect from any book by James: a well-told story, likable characters who are a pleasure to meet, vicious characters who are a joy to despise, action, and humor.
James has written more than 400 stories in a variety of genres, and the easy flow of this narrative demonstrates his storytelling mastery. This tale of a Texas drover injured during a trail drive and left in the small Kansas town of the title to recover provides a nice mix of the elements that mark a solid traditional western: a strong hero who can’t ignore the difference in right and wrong simply because that would be the easy thing to do; a town cowed by a tyrannical lawman; truly evil outlaws; a pretty heroine to win; a conflict between cultures (the cow-driving Texans and the settled Kansas townies); gunfights.
Bill Harvey is still a boy when he’s injured during a cattle drive stampede, caused by a rustler’s nighttime attack on the herd. But he finds his way as a man during his recuperation in Redemption, as he bucks the locals’ biases against wild-and-woolly Texans.
That there’s also a mystery about back-shot citizens hanging a pall over the town simply adds to the drama that brings together Bill with Eden Monroe. James performs marvelously as he builds the relationship between these two characters, not rushing, forcing or artificially combining the details about their growing respect and love for one another.
There’s also the well-constructed villain — one of several who appear in this book — who sets off the chain of events leading to Bill’s injury: Dock Rakestraw has a great name to go along with his mean spirit and evil ways.
I’ve yet to be let down by a Reasoner novel. I’m already looking forward to reading the next one.
Sunday Morning Bonus Pulp: Argosy, March 30, 1940
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