Saturday, 4 April 2009

Lone Star #18

as by Wesley Ellis
Jove, January 1984

Making a mint off a defenceless, sugar-rich nation: that’s what the Baron and his men have in mind when they camouflage a fleet of Starbuck ships sailing from New Orleans to Cuba. But even an obstacle course of explosives, cunning rurales, and the hangman’s noose isn’t enough to throw Jessie and Ki off their trail.

This book makes for a welcome change to the normal land based westerns as quite a lot of it takes place at sea. The first part of the plot revolving around a number of ships that vanish into thin air.

Jessie and Ki – particularly Ki – get into all kinds of trouble as they attempt to solve this mystery and then take down those behind the disappearances. The main plot of trying to control America’s sugar market isn’t something you come across in many, if any other, westerns (at least those I've read), and so gives the reader a pretty unique storyline in a western.

I don’t know who wrote this one but wish I did so I could track down more of his/her work as I found the book to be a fast paced and satisfying read.


Craig Clarke said...

As you said, the sugar plot sounds intriguing. I'll keep my eye out for this one. Thanks.

Chap O'Keefe said...

Sadly, most publishers of westerns aren't as adventurous as their readers. I know of at least one top-ranking writer who had a western proposal with a setting similar to this one rejected. And I should mention a conservative publishing gentleman and his lady staff who have been known to balk at subjects like twins, mesmerism and even the Civil War. (I scarcely dare mention interesting sexual relationships!) It makes it very hard to introduce variety into storylines. Can I do this? How many arm-twisting emails and revisions will I have to write before this can see print?


To be honest this wouldn't appeal to me as a western - I know that sounds as if I'm unwilling to experiment with the western genre but it's not so much that. More I like my westerns to stick to certain themes. I'm not saying I wouldn't enjoy this but I wouldn't consider it a western.

I agree with a lot of chap/keith's comments though and experimenting does keep the genre thriving. Just not for me, I suppose.

Chap O'Keefe said...

I can't say I've ever set a western at sea! The closest I got was in Peace at Any Price, where some of the action was in and around a Texas town on the Gulf coast and smuggling was involved. If I have favorites among my BHWs, this would be one of them. It's out again this very month in a new Linford large-print, paperback edition. (Only £8.99 at Amazon UK!)

Gary/Archavist, I think you might modify your view when you've got past writing your first dozen westerns. By the time you've finished your second dozen, and exhausted those "certain themes", I'd say experimentation will be much more appealing! Several of the more established BHW writers admit this, but are constrained by the market requirements or stop writing westerns altogether. A great shame.


Chap - a valid point and one I suspect may be proved correct if I ever get past my first dozen westerns. It's a personal thing really as I'm able to accept No Country for Old Men as a western so I'm not bracketed to a certain time period but something set at sea - well, I don't know. Saying that Zane Grey wrote the Wilderness Trail which was set in Australia and I loved that, so maybe I'm not as averse to experiment as I first thought.

AndyDecker said...

On the other hand, some of the best novels in the Fargo series were not traditional westerns.