Friday, April 25, 2008

Friday’s Forgotten Book Club (Wild Night -- L. J. Washburn)

Occasionally, on Fridays I will be participating in Patti Abbott’s brainchild—reviewing forgotten books. The idea is that there are books that are really good, but they don’t get as much readership because people have “forgotten” about them. Today I’ll be discussing Wild Night by L. J. Washburn (© 1987 published by TOR books).

I discovered Washburn in a used bookstore offering of Epitaph, her first western novel, published by M. Evans. I found the writing easy to follow and engaging. The flyleaf listed Wild Night as her first novel, and winner of the American Mystery Award and The Private Eye Writers of America's Best Original Paperback Award. I found a used copy of the PBO and read it.

Wild Night is technically classified as a Mystery—a P.I. story in particular—but bears a great resemblance to the genre Western. The hero, Lucas Hallam, is an old used up cowboy who had to turn into a private eye as the world changed around him. His experience as a Pinkerton and Texas Ranger come in handy as he moves to Hollywood to get work as an extra in early Western movies, and finds himself hired to solve mysteries in Tinsel Town.

This is probably the best of the Hallam books although Washburn is a great writer for diversion whether reading her mysteries, westerns, or (and I’ll just have to guess on this one) her romance novels.

Four and one-half reading glasses for this novel that’s too good to forget. Pick up a copy of the pbo if you can find it, or choose the perfect-for-library-shelves re-release in hardcover from Five Star (1998).

—Benjamin Potter, April 25, 2008


pattinase (abbott) said...

Thanks for coming along, Benj. Looks like a good one too.

Peter said...

I'm just starting in the western fiction genre, both reading and writing, so I'll definitely be keeping an eye out for Washburn's work.

One novel I found both compelling as a reader and inspiring as a writer, and one that you or your readers may be interested in, is El Tigre by John Manhold.

It tells the story of Johann Heinrich von Manfred from his youth as a student in a Prussian military academy through his many exciting and dangerous adventures. It's a fantastic insight into life in the 19th century Americas and carries all the hallmarks of great western fiction - plenty of action, a dab of romance, a fluid pace plus it's an historical fiction novel so it's packed with historical material. I highly recommend it if you're interested in the western or historical genres.

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