The Life and Violent Times of Eli Gault
By J. Lee Butts
Berkley, July 2009
If a hard life makes harder men, then Eli Gault is cast-iron in boots. Raised by a merciless, drunken fire-and-brimstone preacher, young Eli avenged himself upon his pious pa. Then, after he took all the kind charity he could handle from the local ladies, Eli’s killer instincts forced him to go on the run, with nothing but his guts and guns to keep him alive.
Eli makes his way the best he can, earning a living at the poker tables. But his true education begins when he meets Cutter Sharpe – a legendary killer and expert gunhand. Soon, the pair are shooting their way across Texas, leaving a trail of blood and bodies behind them. But Eli is about to learn that there’s a line a man shouldn’t cross, because there’s no going back – there’s only hell to pay…
This is a book told in the first person. It’s a story of a young man who, through unfortunate circumstances finds himself forced to kill time and again, something he discovers he’s very good at.
J. Lee Butts writes extremely well. His style makes this a difficult book to put down. He fills the story with colourful and engaging characters. The book has plenty of tough and brutal action as we follow Gault’s attempts to settle down, even taking on a job as a deputy at one point, but each time he finds himself having to kill again and once more having to go on the run. Butts also includes plenty of humorous observations, often commenting on human nature.
Even though Eli Gault is a likeable hero you can’t help but think that the book can’t end well, especially as the opening scenes see Gault sitting in jail awaiting the hangman. The main part of the story being told as a long flashback. The end of the book is powerful and memorable.
Hell To Pay is the first J. Lee Butts book I’ve read, but on the strength of this it most definitely wont be the last.