Saturday, 13 September 2008

Ambush on the Mesa

 by Gordon D. Shirreffs
Gold Medal, 1957

A regiment was needed but they sent only one man, Hugh Kinzie, scout for the United States Army. Hugh saddled his dun and rode west. He found the party of men and women ambushed by Red Sleeves, the maniacal chief who hated the white man more than he feared death itself. Now Hugh was trapped with those he’d come to save…and it looked like there was no escape.

Gordon D. Shirreffs writes fast moving, tough prose, and in this case presents the reader with a group of hard to like characters, yet his superb storytelling will have you reading on to see if any of the trapped party can survive.

Although the Apaches hardly appear in the story, except briefly at the end, it’s the ever present threat they pose that that had me hooked. Shirreffs creates an almost palpable tension, and fear, amoung his hemmed in group of soldiers and civilians, that makes for gripping reading as their number is whittled down one by one.

Although Kinzie is the main character, Shirreffs spends almost as much time telling you what the other people are doing and feeling. These parts of the book told in a series of short paragraphs that move from character to character until each has been written about. This way Shirreffs is able to further complicate the tale as each person plots ways in which to escape the trap.

There’s plenty of action as the book leads to its exciting conclusion that left me eager to try more of Gordon D. Shirreffs’ work.

2 comments:

ARCHAVIST said...

Hey I've actually got this one among a pile of old paperbacks I bought. Enjoyed your review so maybe I'll try it next.

M E said...

I have read it at the age of 13 the fisrt time in German translation.
It has captivated me, because it was not the kind of Western with this kitschy shallow romantical attitude (hero saves a bunch of people from a criminal gang, shootout, happy end *yahn*).
Nearly everyone in this book is an anti-hero - appart from Mr. Kinzie and Ms. Corse. And even those two are not praised to the skies.