Wednesday, 18 May 2016
Six Guns at Sundown, by Eric Beetner - a review
Seething hatred spurs The Lawyer forward, with a burning vengeance for his family slaughtered by seven hardened gunslingers. He’s tracking them down, one by one, until every killer is in the ground. His next target, Big Jim Kimbrough, left tracks to the small town of Sundown, Arkansas, where The Lawyer learns his prey has already moved on.
But he can’t leave after he witnesses a black man named Josiah being dragged behind a horse, the man’s only crime is allegedly taking food from a white man’s table, and is about to be lynched. The Lawyer takes up arms to save Josiah, realizing Kimbrough is slipping from his grasp with every minute he spends in Sundown. None of that will matter, though, if The Lawyer doesn’t survive the next twelve hours in the wake of a racially charged mob, fueled by the town’s tyrant and cheap liquor.
Eric Beetner (The Year I Died Seven Times) is no stranger to writing terse, action-packed storylines. He shifts his gifted prose from modern crime tales to the gritty world of the Old West without missing a beat. SIX GUNS AT SUNDOWN is a riveting Western that continually tightens its grip to the last provocative page.
Great writing is about two things - the theme, and the relationships between the characters. And what great writers can do is take these elements and transpose them through space and time. In the case of Six Guns at Sundown, Beetner has chosen the Old West as his arena. I love cowboy stories, so when I chanced upon this novella, I jumped all over it.
Six Guns at Sundown is classic Western fare, with a noir flavour. The Lawyer is on the trail of Big Jim Kimbrough - the man that slaughtered his family. And he will stop at nothing to track him down. Well, almost nothing. A dying man leads him to the town of Sundown - a lawless hell of a town - a town run by whatever loud-mouthed, trigger-happy lunatic happens to be shouting the loudest at the time. On this occasion, the current loud-mouthed, trigger-happy lunatic goes by the name of Buchanan - a rancher with a perceived injustice for which he wants revenge.
But there are two sides to every story. And when The Lawyer rides into town, he is going to make sure Buchanan understands that - whether Buchanan likes it or not.
Six Guns at Sundown is a brilliantly written slice of Western noir, from one of the finest crime/noir writers around. It is the third in a series of novella based on characters created by Edward A. Grainger, author of the excellent Cash Laramie and Gideon Miles adventures. If you love your Western reading on the Clint Eastwood Unforgiven side, I highly recommend this series.
Six Guns at Sundown is available from Amazon UK here and from Amazon US here