by William Kennedy
A Black Horse Western from Hale, 1989
Trouble in the Cherokee Nation country was what forced half-breed Buck Shannon away for some years in the first place, and trouble is what brings him back to his farming family. During his enforced absence, Snake Hogan has moved into the territory, using gunsels to lean on the farmers, killing Buck’s brother, Jeff, in the process – and he wants more…
Even before he reaches home, Buck is jumped by Hogan and his thugs, who mangle his gun hand. The broken drifter needs time to bring his left hand up to scratch before he can embark on a plan of revenge. He will play a game of cat-and-mouse, affecting cowardice and docility to Hogan and his bunch, while killing them one by one before exposing Hogan to the whole town. It is a dangerous game, but Buck’s mind is made up…
Like most of the BHW I’ve read this book is a quick, fast-paced read. The opening section paints Hogan and his hands as totally evil men fuelled by greed. The crushing of Shannon’s hand being particularly well told – even if the problems this gives him later are almost glossed over, other than him having to learn to use his pistol left-handed.
Shannon’s plan of revenge is well told, although I’d have liked to see a little more variety in how he kills Hogan’s men. The legend of the phantom gunman that arises from Shannon killing Hogan’s men adds an extra, and welcome, element to the story.
But it’s not just the desire for justice that fills the plot as Shannon also finds he’s the centre of a love triangle, which adds further complications to his quest for vengeance.
The book doesn’t have any twists, just being a straightforward plot of good verses bad, making for a pleasant couple of hours of pure escapism.