By Phil Dunlap
Berkley, June 2011
As sheriff of Catron County in New Mexico Territory, Cotton Burke has put his life on the line against some of the West’s most unrepentant outlaws. Like Virgil Cruz – who’s kidnapped the woman Cotton loves and threatens to kill her should the lawman attempt to interfere with his gang’s schemes.
Memphis Jack Stump used to wear a badge and uphold justice until one drink too many cost him his job – and his friendship with Cotton. But he’s the only man Cotton trusts enough to infiltrate Cruz’s gang as a hired gun and help take them down from the inside before the bandit enacts a terrible revenge…
In some ways this is an old-fashioned traditional western, but that is not a criticism. In fact some readers will welcome this, as the book contains very little bad language, no explicit sex or graphic violence of the kind that can be found in many other westerns being written today.
Cotton’s War is billed as the first in a new series (the second book, Cotton’s Law, is due out in January 2012) so it seems as if Sheriff Cotton Burke is the main hero of the books, but in this one he plays more of a secondary role, being used to set events in motion and as a link between various characters. The lead is taken by Jack Stump, and he makes for a very memorable reluctant hero, one I hope will return in further books.
Phil Dunlap tells his story from the viewpoints of a variety of characters, moving from one to another chapter by chapter or scene by scene, that often end with a cliff-hanger, ensuring the book is difficult to put down before the end is reached. This makes for a fast flowing story that keeps the reader gripped with the need to know what happens next.
Phil Dunlap is a new author to me, even though he has had a number of westerns published by Avalon and one or two by Leisure, and this book has left me wanting to check out his other work whilst patiently waiting for the publication of Cotton’s Law.