By Lee Clinton
Hale, January 2012
When a man has nothing left to lose be careful, he can be dangerous, very dangerous – and Olford Tate is now such a man. At the end of a cattle drive from Texas to Missouri, a physician hands the young cowboy a death sentence. His dangerous state of mind results in the cold, calculated killing of a man in front of a room full of witnesses.
When an aging US marshal with a missing finger and hard-nosed approach to the law comes to his defence, it results in an odd and unlikely partnership. But is Marshal Henry Owens being straight with young Olford or using him for his own purposes? What follows is a treacherous and unpredictable journey as their relationship is tested to the point where there is no room for the coward.
After really enjoying Lee Clinton’s first BHW, Raking Hell, I was very much looking forward to this, his second book, which has taken just under a year to appear, was it worth the wait?
Like his previous book this story is told mostly in short chapters. The print is also very small putting this into the category of longer BHW. Adding to the length of the story is the fact that the chapters start just a few lines down from the end of the previous one, rather than on a new page like the majority of BHW, so this book provides the reader with a much longer read than expected from this publishers westerns.
Another element that makes this book standout from other BHW is the fact that women have very little parts to play, there isn’t any romance to be found, unless you count Tate’s infatuation with a singer, which is only a brief part of the story.
The relationship between Tate and Owens makes for fascinating reading, as the reader knows Owens’ plan and will have to wonder how Tate will react when, and if, he finds out the truth. Their friendship grows through a deadly walk to safety, which makes for some tense and gripping reading.
Action scenes are sudden, brutal, and gruesome. Owens’ mission seemingly being thwarted by paperwork – not that this would bother him as he has his own rules of making life easy by simply killing those who wrong him or the law.
Of course the reader knows there can’t be a happy ending for Tate, due to his illness, but I sure didn’t expect the book to finish as it does. This dramatic conclusion being another surprise for those who have read many BHW as this type of ending just doesn’t happen very often – in fact I can’t remember reading another that ends quite like this. Powerful, gritty and memorable.
So, to answer my question of whether this book was worth the wait, I’d say most definitely. Let’s just hope it’s not nearly a year before Lee Clinton’s next book comes out.
No Coward is officially released on January 31st, but is available now from the usual Internet sources.