JAKE MORAN #1
By Robert Broomall
Ebook, August, 2012
1854 -- the Gold Rush is still going strong. Who better to guide a wagon train from San Antonio to California than Jake Moran, the Hero of Chapultapec in the Mexican War? Trouble is, Jake's not really a hero, though he's the only one who knows it. Fifteen hundred miles of forbidding desert make Jake want to turn down the position, but the emigrants of the California Company are depending on him, and he can't let them down. The company faces thirst, cholera, and Comanche raids. In addition, Jake confronts the enmity of Tyler Hampton, wealthy promoter of the California Company, the man whose leadership position has been taken away and given to Jake. Jake may not be a hero when the company pulls out, but he better become one if they're going to survive.
Originally published by Fawcett in 1987 as the second book in the series but now Robert Broomall has released the three Jake Moran stories as ebooks and has put them out in the correct chronological order, so Dead Man’s Crossing now becomes the first in the series.
I like the idea that Robert Broomall decided to make Jake Moran a reluctant hero, a man whose reputation has been built up by others when in reality he didn’t do anything heroic, in fact fears facing an enemy and calls himself a coward. Circumstances see Jake having to stand-up for himself and chance sees that heroic reputation grow.
Robert Broomall creates a great sense of the dangers the desert crossing presents. I really felt the heat along with his characters, found myself in need of water. As the wagon train is reduced in size due to loss of animals and people I soon began to wonder how many, if any, would reach safety.
Including disease as one of the threats, one they can’t see coming, adds an extra element to the story that plays on their minds, filling them with dread, urging them on to escape the desert whilst promising doom as the hopelessness of their quest takes hold.
There’s lots of action as Moran has to lead the emigrants in defending themselves against the Comanches. The fights are savage and tense. If that isn’t enough Moran is constantly looking over his shoulder at the ex-leader of the train, and his men, as they would like nothing better than to see him dead. As the dangers of the trail take their toll these hatreds have to be put on hold as all must pull together if any of them are to survive.
The book builds extremely well to the final confrontation that sees the last few travellers trapped, out of water and ammunition, surrounded by Comanches.
On finishing this book I found myself eager to see what happens to Moran next, so I don’t think it will be too long before I read the next in the series.