Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Saga of the O'Brien Clan by William W. Johnstone

The Brothers O'Brien by William W. Johnstone Shadow of the Hangman by William W. Johnstone Published by Pinnacle Books, February and April 2012, respectively.
Some of the most engaging western stories are about families: Bonanza, The Big Valley, The Sons of Katie Elder, How the West Was Won/The Macahans come to mind. Of course, these are all TV series and movies, but any number of stories by Thomas Thompson and Tom W. Blackburn also fit in the mold. Louis L'Amour's Sackett saga may be the top contender for expansive version of this sub-genre. Author William W. Johnstone — and the folks now behind the WWJ brand — certainly understood and understand the appeal of the family saga. One can easily argue that every one of the various WWJ series is in some way or other a family saga. One of the two newest WWJ series has its feet firmly planted in the family saga mold, that of The Brothers O'Brien. The opening book of the series describes the establishing of the O'Brien clan's ranch, Dromore, by Shamus, his wife Saraid, and his segundo Luther Ironside. Four boys are born to the O'Briens before the death of the missus, and this band of gritty men face off any threats to their independence or the well-being of Dromore.
In both of the series' first two novels, the villains are truly evil. In the first novel, a scheming daughter of a Mexican landowner brings about the death of her own father as she schemes to bring the wealth of the O'Briens under her control. In the second, honest-to-goodness Satan worshippers plot revenge on the O'Briens for the hanging of family member after caught rustling ten years earlier. One wonders if this O'Briens-against-the-forces-of-Hell's-evils will be a continuing theme for the series. The writing styles for the two books differ, suggesting two ghost-writers are behind the books, but the characterizations are consistent, and J.A. Johnstone or someone has done a good job checking continuity. The various members of the cast are engaging and entertaining to follow in their interactions with one another and with other characters. Like other WWJ series, this one likely will go long and far.

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