Saturday, 16 October 2010

The Trailsman #348

As by Jon Sharpe
Signet, October 2010

Northeast Arkansas, 1860 – where the hunter quickly becomes the hunted, and Skye Fargo discovers that a fish rots from the top.

In the wilds of northwest Arkansas, a local U.S. Army fort is under attack. Not from an enemy army, but from a band of highwaymen who kill at will and strike without warning, then fade into the shadows. And Fargo, helped by a half-crazy half-blood Choctaw, is the only who can hunt down the murderers and deliver justice….

Like the majority of books in this long running series, this entry is a fast moving, action packed, and entertaining read. The book is filled with well-drawn characters and the author does well in creating an air of suspicion over many of them as to whether they are involved with the attacks on the forts supplies, be they some of the local hard men, a beautiful woman or two, or the rich-beyond-his-means lawman.

I’m not sure who the author is behind the pseudonym of Jon Sharpe this time, but he definitely has his own “voice”. His style is very readable once you get used to the way he has his characters, including Skye Fargo, speak, which is quite different to other authors working on the series. There are lots of humorous exchanges too, mainly involving Cranky Man, Fargo’s Choctaw partner in this book.

A couple of things caught my eye and made me wonder; it’s mentioned more than once that Fargo has an arrowhead embedded in his back that causes him discomfort, particularly when the weather is turning for the worse. This is something I don’t recall reading in any other Trailsman books. And there’s discussion on why the Colonel won’t use the telegraph to exchange messages with Fargo, this made me wonder as to whether the telegraph was up and running in 1860 (when the book is set) as I thought it came in a little latter in America, still I could be wrong. Let me quickly add that neither of these queries in anyway spoilt my enjoyment of the story overall.


James Reasoner said...

This isn't by the "old campaigner" author, is it? Because I think I know who that is.

Steve M said...

That was my thought James, but the horse is just referred to as an Ovaro all through. "Old Campaigner" was mentioned once.

Chap O'Keefe said...

I have seen anachronisms in Trailsman books (e.g. dynamite), but the telegraph probably just scrapes in as OK. Paddy Gallagher (aka Greg Mitchell) has written a fine article called "The Talking Wire Goes West" and it will be in the next Black Horse Extra, out mid-November. To quote:

"In 1843 the U.S. Congress awarded Morse and Vail $30,000 to build a telegraph line from Washington DC to Baltimore, a distance of about 40 miles. The following year, Morse sent the first telegram, a long biblical quotation that left no doubts as to the viability of his system. Lines spread quickly, closely associated with the expanding railroad networks....

"The military quickly saw the advantages of the telegraph and when the American Civil War erupted in 1861 both sides made good use of the technology. Though many towns were still not connected to the system, couriers rode swiftly to the nearest transmission points or simply hooked transmission devices to the nearest wire they could reach."

Anonymous said...

Haven't read many westerns, (just some Louis L'Amour) is Trailsman a good place to start?

Steve M said...

The Trailsman series has been running for many years, first appearing in July 1980. Although it's a series it is one that a reader can jump into anywhere. Most of the books are action packed and fast moving. The time period is the early 1860's so the series is set a little earlier than many western books being written today, so you'll find they feature Indians more often than other series.

The major difference between them and Louis L'Amour's work is that they include fairly graphic sex scenes. The early books contained lots of this but for the last few years this has been cut to a couple of encounters per book. So, if you don't like explicit sex in your reading then you should, perhaps, give this series a miss.

One thing though, is that behind the pseudonym of Jon Sharpe has been many of the best writers of western fiction so you usually do get a great story.

The best thing to do is try a couple (don't just judge on one book as it maybe you don't like that particular authors style), you can maybe get them from a library of buy them second-hand from a used bookstore or online.

Check the many reviews of Trailsman books I have on here, to get more of an idea of the storylines you are likely to find in the books.

Anonymous said...

Sounds good I'll check some out, thanks alot.