Kit Prate, New York (Tower Books: 1981)
Trace Belden is leading a trail drive from Nogadoches with his younger brother, Lon. Moving 900 spooky cattle to a new ranch in Texas is hard work enough. Trying to keep rein on Lon, who is immature and rebellious against his sibling's hard authority, ratchets up the stress exponentially.
Further conflict enters the plot when Trace pays a visit to his ex-wife. Her husband -- arrogant and powerful -- has no care for Trace, and preens before him with the cattleman's former spouse. But Lon throws oil on the fire smoldering between the men with an ill-timed, brash and foolish move. As a result, the rift between the brothers grows wider, and Cord Bishop -- the bullying husband -- has a bitter taste in his mouth and a strong desire to do in the Belden brothers.
Kit Prate sets up a tough task for an author, for none of the protagonists are particularly likeable or sympathetic, not even Trace, the titular hero of the story. But Prate's characters are very human, not mere stereotypes playing parts in a stereotypical traditional western plot. So the route the writer traces in this narrative holds the reader's interest to see just what will happen to these contentious folks.
Entertaining. I'll keep an eye out for more books by Kit Prate.
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