Saturday, 16 August 2008

Bucked Out In Dodge

 a Ralph Compton novel
by David Robbins
Signet, October 2004

Four young cowboys head into Dodge for a wild night to celebrate the end of a trail drive in a book that is very much dialogue driven to begin with. There is also a lot of humour filled conversations as these young men explore Dodge, two even visiting a Collection of Curiosities that came as a welcome addition to the story. Yet for all the fun - such as the pink parasol scene - David Robbins manages to create an underlying sense of violence to come. This and the cliff-hanger chapter endings combining to hook this reader and thus make it a very difficult book to put down.

The characters we meet are all well drawn and likeable, even those who seem to be the bad guys. It isn’t long before our four young cowboys find that Dodge isn’t a town that thrives on just fun, it has a darker side into which they are unsuspectingly drawn when trouble erupts between them and some less than reputable characters over the attentions of a dance hall girl.

This is when the tone of the book changes and the story becomes less dialogue driven and more descriptive as violence erupts. No one is safe as death comes calling, which results in a spectacular shootout as Rusty goes on a killing spree in the name of vengeance. The savagery of the final chapters of this book contrast darkly with the earlier lighter tones making for a powerful, and a times brutal, ending.

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