Today's book review will be about a western, something which I've read with great infrequency (which I do apologize for). The main reason for such infrequency is that my library carries titles that really don't appeal to me. I read the synopsis, furrow my brow, return the book to the shelf and continue on my merry way. I seem to have that problem with most fiction nowadays, but I digress.
Anyways, about a month ago, I found a couple of westerns that appealed to me. Part of the reason that they appealed to me was that they were from this year and the synopsis for both were intriguing. The other reason was that they were both skinny volumes, thus they were going to be quick reads. I like my books to be quick reads. The only exceptions I will make to that rule is that the book must be either non-fiction or historical fiction, both of which contain an ungodly amount of pages.
Not so coincidentally, both volumes were written by the same writer, Johnny D. Boggs. I'm one of those rare people who doesn't give much weight to writing awards/accolades that a particular writer might get in his/her chosen genre. It just doesn't do it for me, because there's been quite a few times that I picked up a book due to the accolades that a writer had gotten, only to be disappointed by the content of the book. So when I read his very short bio contained within, and saw that he won a few prestigious awards, I thought, "Okay, his peers say that he's a very good writer. Let's see if he impresses me."
Yeah, I know, cynical. Prolonged exposure to tabloid fodder will do that to a person.
Anyways, the story takes place during the run up to the Civil War, in a godforsaken place called Soldier's Farewell, somewhere in New Mexico Territory. Most of the action is contained at the stagecoach station located in Soldier's Farewell.
Mr. Boggs does a good job of presenting the story as an excellent microcosm of the split family loyalties that were a direct result of the Civil War. For those who don't know much of American History beyond what you read in crappy textbooks, one of the unintentional side effects of the Civil War was that some family's loyalties laid with the North and some laid with the South. With the North, it wasn't so much as freeing the slaves, as it was more preserving the Union, no matter what. By the same token, with the South, it was more about doing with state's rights than it had to do with freeing the slaves (yes my good friends, the Civil War had absolutely nothing to do with freeing the slaves. As a matter of fact, Lincoln freeing the slaves was done more as a military/economic strategy than anything else. Lincoln was truly a man of his times, as like everyone else, he had a low opinion of blacks).
The way he presents it, is through the eyes of one of the participants, a youngster named Smith Munro, who writes about it in a diary. Yes, the entire story is done in a diary format, so each section is done in that particular format, and you read it much the same way like you would read any other typical journal. He does a very good job of banging out the story in that format, because it's presented to the reader like casual conversation.
My attention was kept throughout the entire book, and I finished it in about three days. I found it to be for the most part, a very good read. I think the only part that really dragged (at least in my eyes) was the ending. Or at the very least, getting to the ending, because he manages to consolidate the last three years to about seven pages and the actual ending to about six. But that's probably just nitpicking on my part.
In any event, for a western, it's a pretty good read and I highly recommend it to those who like the western genre. If you don't like the western genre, it's still a good read.