Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Desperadoes: a book review

DESPERADOES (Berkley paperback) – Just finished another anthology of western stories. Like the previous one (TIN STAR) this book has a theme with the editors utilizing new stories and reprints to focus on those on the opposite side of the law.

The first item is a reprint of a Louis L’Amour tale, which gets things off to a nice start. Also included are works by Loren Estleman, Bill Prozini, Frank Gruber and Ed Gorman, among others. I’m more familiar with the mystery/detective fiction of Prozini and Estlemen, but both prove themselves more than adept at the western tale. Estleman, of course has garnered a few awards for his stories of the old west. I’m really becoming a fan of both Frank Gruber and Ed Gorman, so I’ll be trying to pick up a few of their western novels when I get the chance.

The individual writers each put their own spin on the idea of the men and women who find them selves riding the ‘owlhoot trail’, as they say in these books. I remember first encountering that term back when I was reading western comics as a kid, but didn’t really understand the concept until I began reading actual western fiction. I’ve tried to discover the origin of the term, but can’t seem to find it listed in any of the dictionaries or encyclopedias I check. I’m going to make it a project to actually try and hunt down the origin. If I do, I’ll let you know.

Like most anthologies of this type there are some weaker stories, but for the most part the editors have chosen some fine examples that cover several decades of western fiction. Maybe I’m just easy to please, but I recommend the book for those who enjoy short story writing, no matter the genre.
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