Friday, August 27, 2010

Mister St. John – Loren D. Estleman

© 1983, Doubleday, Garden City, NY

Loren Estleman is an award-winning writer in both the mystery and the western genres. He excels when writing westerns. Mister St. John is a trail’s end novel that chronicles the very end of the era of ‘cowboys and Indians’.

Irons St. John, former tracker in the “Nations” (Oklahoma) for Judge Parker’s court, has tried career after career unsuccessfully. His last effort is a failed attempt to win a Congressional seat for the state of Missouri. Just as he’s starting to celebrate his losses, in walks a Pinkerton agent named Rawlings who has a proposition St. John just cannot refuse: gather a posse to capture and incarcerate a gang of bank robbers led by Race Buckner.

The result is a motley crew made up of an old Indian tracker who had worked with St. John in the Nations (and who brought with him a sharp-shooter who once was the prey that the lawman had hunted—and who is going blind, too boot), a reprobate Sunday school teacher on the run from a town sheriff he had left for dead, and a couple of Mexican bandidos who hired on for the money.

Estleman’s expertise at spinning a story is evident in what you read here. And the occasional mention of an automobile has its own place in this turn of the century setting. Telephones are also a new-fangled tool used by these gun-toting, horse-riding, rough and tumble hombres.

This is western writing as it should be—even in the twentieth century. It is better fare than the house-name dime novels that usually grace the “westerns” shelves in your local bookstore. Even so, the fans of those serial westerns will enjoy this book as well. (4 out of 5 reading glasses).

Benjamin Potter, August 26, 2010

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