By Robert Knott
G.P. Putnam’s Sons 2012
As many of you know, Robert Parker died in 2010. He published books with various main characters and after his death, his family, with the encouragement of his publisher I would imagine, decided to allow various other authors to attempt to write books in Parker’s voice, in my opinion, with varying success in their endeavors.
His Spenser series has been taken over by Ace Atkins, his Jesse Stone series by Michael Brandman, and now his Virgil Cole western series is being written by Robert Knott. It seems to me that Knott’s writing is the most like Parker’s that I have read so far. He manages to convey the characters we met in “Brimstone,” “Resolution,” and “Appaloosa” just as I imagine Parker envisioned them.
In “Ironhorse,” Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch have taken on new rolls as Territorial Marshals. They have been given the job of escorting Mexican prisoners through Indian country to the border by train (whereupon the prisoners are quickly shot and killed by the Mexican authorities. Seems to me they could have saved themselves a trip and just done the job, with permission, where they were imprisoned in the United States). The remaining passengers are then joined by the Governor of Texas, along with his wife and two lovely daughters, as well as $500,000 in cash.
We all know from years of watching Westerns that no self-respecting train robber could let such a bundle of money go by without an attempt to take it for themselves. The band of robbers are headed by “Bloody Bob Brandice,” a man Virgil Cole has encountered in the past, leaving Brandice with two .44 slugs in him, courtesy of Cole. Brandice is not just out for the money, but also for revenge on Cole. He comes well armed with men to help him as there seem to be about 20 bandits, all strung out from the caboose to the locomotive.
Virgil and Everett are quickly able to eliminate several of them as they are not shy about dispatching anyone involved in the hold up and dumping their dead bodies over the side of the car’s platform. However, it seems that a number of those who appear to be innocent passengers are also involved in the robbery. Nor are the robbers shy about dispatching anyone who even slightly gets in their way. Things definitely go from bad to worse when Cole and Hitch discover that the bandits have managed to uncouple the cars so that there are 3 separate groups with some of them going one direction and others another. In one of these groups of cars is the, now kidnapped, Governor and his family, and, supposedly, the $500,000. What makes conditions even worse is there is a terrible rainstorm going on and the robbers have managed to disable the brakes on the train so there is no way to control its travel. It goes without saying that they are able, finally, to solve that problem to some extent, but in the meantime all the robbers left alive manage to make their escape in one way or another.
Virgil and Everett head out, on foot, to the next town, Half Moon Junction. You have an idea of the size of the town by the fact that the streets are named Half Moon, Quarter Moon, Three Quarter Moon and Full Moon – and that’s it! It is a former mining town that mainly consists of bars, gambling houses and bordellos, sometimes all combined in one. There Virgil and Everett are able to round up some help to go after the bad guys and try to save the kidnapped family, one of which Everett has taken a shine to, before something even more terrible befalls them.
Please be aware that this is not your old fashioned shoot ‘em up Western. There is no Roy Rogers, Hopalong Cassidy or Gene Autry in sight. The women in the houses of ill repute vary in beauty from downright homely to outright gorgeous, but all are good natured and willing to put a smile on a customer’s face in both word and deed. There is more of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid in “Ironhorse” than there is the Lone Ranger and “Hi-yo Silver.” It is a good read for man or woman. Enjoy!
Diane Bostick has lived on Marco Island since 1987. She was the Founder and President of Ft. Myers chapter of the Association of Children with Learning Disabilities, President of Jr. Welfare League, Ft. Myers Chapter, and served on the board of Art League of Marco Island. She is an avid reader, fly fisherwoman, tennis player and crafter.