Sunday, May 19, 2013
The Gila Wars, Josiah Wolfe, Texas Ranger #6 by Larry D. Sweazy
from: Journey of a Bookseller, review by Jo Ann Hakula
Josiah Wolfe is back. He's a ranger who lives his life on assignments and is never sure when he might get shot next. Or even if he'll be coming back home after his job is finished. He's focused on his goals as a ranger and hopes his personal life will still be there when he returns. It is, but it's never works out quite like he thought...
The author sent me a copy of his book for review (thank you). I always enjoy Mr. Sweazy's stories and have read several about Josiah now. He tells me Berkley will no longer be publishing this series, so I hope someone else picks it up. I'll miss Josiah. You can grab this book at your local bookstore now and won't want to miss it if you like Westerns.
What makes Josiah so enjoyable to read about is that he's human, no super hero. He gets shot, loses friends, gets his heart broken, and he still moves forward. He's getting older and that influences his decisions, too.
In this story, he's going after Cortina again. He doesn't get far before he's shot again and has to heal up before going any further. Scrap goes on, Josiah stays. And there's a beautiful Mexican woman tending to him. He's healing well and relishing the fact that he has a letter from Pearl. What he doesn't expect is a "Dear John" letter. All of sudden his life is upside down again. The battle against Cortina is hard fought and Josiah loses more friends.
It's time for Josiah to decide what to do with the rest of his life. I was surprised by his decision. Maybe you will be, too.
If you haven't had the chance to meet Josiah yet, you'll want to pick up the earlier books in the series and follow his development as a character. Mr. Sweazy writes a good western.
Jo Ann Hakola
Saturday, May 18, 2013
I have always really liked black and white pictures. They are like memories buried deep, murky, grainy, still holding emotions, offering more to the eye if you look closer. The magic of photography has always fascinated me. I especially like old pictures. They are as close to being able time travel in the physical world as I can get.
Friday, May 17, 2013
The Gila Wars by Larry D. Sweazy
Buddies in the Saddle --review by Ron Scheer
It takes a while to realize what this new Josiah Wolfe, Texas Ranger novel is truly about. Sweazy has a whole lot more on his mind than the unsuspecting reader is likely to first notice. Count me among the unsuspecting. I must have been almost three-fourths through it before the pieces began falling together for me. Josiah Wolfe (as mentioned here earlier) is a complex an interesting character. He fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War, and his battlefield experiences have left him somewhat troubled. Bloodshed and death haunt him. Peace time, such as it is in post-war Texas, has been no less harsh for him. He has lost his loving wife and three daughters, all dead from influenza, and his service with the Texas Rangers keeps him away from his young son. Earlier novels have told of difficulties that have left others unsure of him. His one partner is an unseasoned junior Ranger, Scrap Elliott, whose hair-trigger anger makes him explosive and unpredictable.
Plot. The “war” in this novel is a campaign to capture or kill a border lord, Juan Cortina, who has been raiding longhorns from the King ranch. The Rangers have word that a steamboat is to take a rustled herd on board and ship them from the Gulf coast of Texas to Cuba. Under the command of Captain Leander McNelly, they are sent out to intercept the shipment and put a stop to Cortina. The novel takes an abrupt turn as Wolfe and Elliott head off together toward the grassy, low-lying flatlands along the shore. Their job is to act as spies and learn what they can, but a shooting incident in a cantina suddenly sidelines Wolfe, and he nearly dies of gunshot wounds. During his convalescence there he becomes attached to a young woman, Francesca, who cares for him. Back in the saddle, he rejoins his company of Rangers, and there is a bloody battle with Cortina’s men as they attempt to rendezvous with the steamship. A death in that fight produces another abrupt turn, as Wolfe and Elliott escort the dead man all the way back to Austin. There he has some personal matters to attend to as he decides what to do with the rest of his life.
Themes. There is more than one “war” in the novel, as the title suggests. In addition to the one against Cortina, there is a deeply divided conflict in the very heart and soul of Sweazy’s central character. Killing and bloodshed have left Wolfe both physically and emotionally scarred. The traditional western hero is untouched by death. Killing serves a self-justifying purpose: to restore order and justice. But in reality, we know that for some men at least, it comes at a cost. It may haunt them for a lifetime. As this novel proceeds, Wolfe becomes increasingly burdened by regret, guilt, and shame. Not a weak or fearful man by any means, he is just a man. Brave and courageous, as we all hope we might be in his shoes, but a man all the same. There is a modern note of resignation in the novel’s attitude toward war. The Rangers’ battle against Cortina and his kind of thievery on the US-Mexican border calls to mind today’s unending “war on drugs” and the pervasive violence along that particular international boundary. The Rangers’ search and destroy mission on the alien coastal terrain easily recalls footage of troop movements in foreign lands on the evening news. Wolfe continues to remember the War Between the States with bitterness. The dead and injured in the battle against Cortina remind him of the depression that follows killing, how it haunts sleep with dreams of walking with the dead. The war has become a bad memory without meaning. So are the deaths of his wife and children. It is an unforgiving world, and these experiences have left Wolfe without belief in a God or an afterlife. There is a powerful scene between Wolfe and the camp doctor and mortician, Verlyn Tinker, a Yankee who served in the ambulance corps at Antietam. As a doctor, doing what he can to undo the damage done on the battlefield, he says he has learned to let the past go. Besides, he says, wars don’t end. New battles and new enemies come along to take the place of old ones. That is a belief not unfamiliar today.
Style. There are action, suspense, and excitement in the book, but it is also much of the time simply thoughtful, as Wolfe reflects on his life, the people he has known, and his situation. A large part of the story is devoted to the growing affection between Wolfe and Francesca and the dilemma this creates for him, especially as he starts the novel engaged to another woman back in Austin. Characters are sharply drawn. Scrap Elliott makes a good contrast with Wolfe. Too young to have fought in the War Between the States, he imagines the killing fields as a place to freely release his rage. He is almost unhinged by his hatred of Mexicans. Easily insulted, he is always ready to explode and make trouble for himself and Wolfe. His short fuse and immaturity make him a volatile presence in the narrative. Running out of his usual patience, Wolfe finally socks him in the face, then regrets it. The camp doctor, Tinker, comes across vividly, talking with Wolfe as he goes about his work. An older man, he has a worldly wisdom and a reassuring depth of character that calm Wolfe and the patients he’s treating. He also possesses a degree of moral stature that is reflected in his physical resemblance to Abraham Lincoln. Western writers tend to be good about how things look and sound. Sweazy reminds us that the Old West had its characteristic smells, as well. Riding into the flat grassland along the Gulf shore, Wolfe and Elliott are ambushed, and “the putrid, rotting smell of the ground mixed with the metallic blood and the gunpowder.” Death is often referred to as having a smell. Baths being infrequent, a man might “smell like a dead possum that had been baking in the sun.” Longing evokes olfactory memories, as when Wolfe recalls the scent of a woman’s toilet soap. Hungry, he is pleased by wood smoke and the smell of meat cooking on a campfire. In the doctor’s tent, he notes the smell of whiskey being used to clean a wound.
Wrapping up. This is another fine western from the pen of Larry Sweazy. It’s #6 in the Josiah Wolfe series and reportedly the last. A review of the previous volume, The Coyote Tracker, can be found here.
For the rest of the review and interview go to the Buddies in the Saddle web site.
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
The Coyote Tracker by Larry D. Sweazy
Kevin's Corner, review by Kevin Tipple
May 1875 finds Texas Ranger Josiah Wolfe back in Austin, Texas and very much in career limbo. Wolfe is still is a Texas Ranger despite the recent events and the media backlash. But, he has been told to stay in Austin and await the arrival of Captain Leander McNelly who will decide one more time if Ranger Wolfe is worth it. Not only is his career with the Rangers at stake, so too is the future of the Texas Rangers as an organization thanks to the coverage by the Austin Statesman newspaper. Both Wolfe and the Rangers have a negative connotation these days and forces are moving to do away with both. At least Wolfe’s forced idleness has a couple of positive aspects. One is that he is able to court Pearl Fikes. A romance is building there between the widow Fikes and Wolfe despite the issues they both bring to a relationship. Being home in Austin also means Wolfe can spend time with his rapidly growing son, Lyle. During his frequent and often long absences, he is cared for by Ofelia who has been with him many years now and is far more than a trusted caregiver. She is akin to family and Wolfe is well aware of his obligations to her and others. Obligations that also are present with fellow Ranger Scrap Elliot. Scrap finds himself in the local jail, accused of murdering a whore. Seen at the body with blood on his hands, he briefly fled the scene, and now there seems to be a push to hang him for the most recent murder as well as for several other crimes. Crimes he certainly did not commit though those in charge seem more concerned about hanging any suspect rather than hanging the correct person. What role Scrap’s worsening situation plays in the recent string of events involving a jail break, a mysterious cypher, a strangely familiar horse, and other recent events is something Wolfe has to figure out in time to save the life of his friend. Award winning author Larry D. Sweazy has crafted yet another outstanding tale in this long running series. Along with multiple plot lines and action are authentic details that make this novel and series come alive for readers. More mystery in a western setting than a western in a western setting, it may not appeal as much to those who want the typical formulaic western fare. This is not one of those kind of formulaic western novels as Wolfe spends much of the time thinking, asking questions, and dealing with various relationship issues. There is good reason why the novel received the “Spur Award for Best Mass Market Paperback” as The Coyote Tracker: A Josiah Wolfe, Texas Ranger Novel is good on its own while continuing this excellent series in fine tradition.
Tuesday, May 14, 2013
Monday, May 13, 2013
This is Bill. I don't know Bill's last name. I don't know much about Bill at all other than he loves to read. He came to one of my book signings at Mudsock's (the independent book store in Fishers that is now closed). I don't remember which book it was. One of the early Josiah Wolfe novels. I think it might have been The Scorpion Trail. Bill told me that he had read the first Josiah Wolfe novel, The Rattlesnake Season, had checked it from the library, liked it, and saw in the newspaper that I was appearing at a signing. Bill has come to all of the signings I've held since that first one he attended. I've signed all seven of my published novels for him.
I heard Harlan Coben say once, "You build an audience one reader at a time." Bill reminds me of that every time I see him.
In these uncertain times in the publishing industry, it's easy to get caught up in the details in contracts, and the publishing wars with Amazon, and the declining advances, and all of that inside baseball stuff that none of us have any control over. But I bet readers like Bill don't care a lick about that stuff, about the business end of things. He's just waiting for the next book to come out...so he can he be entertained, so he can do what he loves to do...read.
I'm wrapping up launch week for The Gila Wars. I had fun, it was nice to get out and see people. But seeing Bill, and every one else that came out, reminded me of the great honor it is to have regular readers, to have an audience. Honestly, that's better than any award hanging on the wall, or any great review in the most read publication in the world, or any check that comes and goes in and out of the bank, or seeing your name on a bestseller list. Readers are the greatest award, the greatest reward for what writers do. People who live and breath publishing forget that all too often.
Thanks, Bill...and every one else out there waiting on my next book. Thanks for taking time out of your day, time out of your life, to spend time with my books. Rest assured, I'm hard at work on the next one.