By Paul Bedford
Hale, August 2012
In 1844, young British Army officer, Thomas Collins, is sent to the fledgling Republic of Texas. His mission: to meet the legendary President Sam Houston to negotiate terms for the British Empire’s involvement in his country.
What Thomas finds is a world of subterfuge and danger. The republic is scourged by an implacable and deadly enemy, the Comanche Nation, for whom rape, pillage and bloody warfare is a way of life. His desperate fight for survival brings him into contact with Captain John Coffee Hays, and his effective Texas Rangers, and ends in a lethal climax aboard a steamboat on the unpredictable Brazos River.
This first Black Horse Western from Paul Bedford is unusual in both the time period the story is set in and the fact that the story is told in the first person. The book is also much longer than the majority of BHW due to more words per line and more lines per page. Chapters also begin a few lines after the previous one ends rather than starting on a new page.
Paul Bedford's prose is very readable and his story is action-packed, containing many fights with the Comanche. Thomas Collins is a hero out of depth as he struggles to understand this new country and its people. He soon begins to have doubts about his mission and questions why he seems to be the target for assassination and who is behind these attempts. Can he even trust the man who saved his life, Bannock, a man who claims to be a Texas Ranger, one whom others have never heard of?
The fights often last a number of pages. They are brutal and often graphic in description. Great to see mention of the amounts of powder smoke emerging from the guns that obscure vision, making it difficult for the triggerman to see if they’ve downed a target.
The story is well plotted and moves forward swiftly, its many questions serving to hold the readers attention. Finding a lone female survivor of a ruthless attack on her family’s cabin adds further complications in the form of kidnap and emotional turmoil as Thomas wonders if he’s falling in love with her. Can these feelings be allowed to get in the way of his mission?
I found Paul Bedford’s book to be an excellent read and was left hoping it won’t be too long before another comes out. Blood on the Land has an official release date of August 31st but is available now.