By F.M. Parker
Sphere Books, 1990
Originally published by Doubleday, 1985
His parents were dead, slaughtered by marauding Comanches.
His thirteen-year-old sister was gone, sold into slavery – or even worse – in Mexico.
Sixteen-year-old Sam Tollin was alone, and his sole chance of survival hung on whether a brutal outlaw gang would let him join them. It was a long trek from the edge of a desert grave to the fortress ranch where his sister was held captive but Sam vowed he would make it; no matter how high the odds against reaching his goal; no matter how many bullets it took to gun them down . . .
Like all the other books I’ve seen by F.M. Parker this one begins with a prologue describing the formation of the land the story takes place in. Throughout the book Parker adds more fascinating facts about the terrain, its harshness and vastness. All this adds a great sense of time and place, making the reader appreciate the challenges of travelling through a desert all the more.
Character studies are as equally well done. Sam, his sister Sarah, the outlaws, all have unique personalities that will have you sharing their pain, joy, fears, expectations and frustrations.
Sam’s search for his sister has to be put on hold once he meets the Kiowa brave, Two Foxes, who rides with the outlaw band Sam joins up with. Two Foxes’ belief that Sam is a bad omen makes for a gripping plotline.
The outlaws have a massive crime planned, similar to a rustling storyline of many westerns but very different in the type of animal they are setting out to steal and the quantity. Then there are the added problems of escaping with these creatures, not-least finding enough water for them as they head back through the desert and staying ahead of their pursuers.
There is also plenty of action, which at times is quite brutal and fairly graphic in its description. Sam quickly learns to become very proficient with a gun. Along the trail Sam gets the chance to settle accounts with those who robbed him and those who killed his parents.
But what of finding his sister? As the pages began to run out, I did begin to wonder how this would be achieved. A lucky break revealed her whereabouts and Sam heads out alone to free Sarah from her captors. The odds are heavily against him. I don’t want to say anything more so as not to spoil the ending for anyone intending to read this book, other than to say the final showdown is tense and dramatic.
I have a few books by F.M. Parker in my collection but this is the first time I’ve read one and I found it to be a thoroughly entertaining read, so-much-so that I’m certain I’ll be reading another very soon.