Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Letter of the Law by C.K. Crigger

TITLE: Letter of the Law
AUTHOR: C.K. Crigger
PUBLISHER: Amber Quill Press
LENGTH: Novel (roughly 71k)
GENRE: Western
COST: $7.00

When gunslingers decide they want to take over Endurance, only one man seems to be standing in their way. They do their best to take down Sheriff Pelham Birdsall, but through the sheer tenacity of his wife Delight, he survives the attack. It lays him up, however, leaving the town wide open. His deputy is lazy and a drunk, and the only man Delight seems to have any confidence in helping is the ex-gunslinger who’s currently housed in one of the jail cells. Tuck Moon doesn’t want to get involved, but Delight isn’t a woman who takes no for an answer, and together with a recovering Pel, the trio do everything in their power to take care of the gunslingers, once and for all…

It saddens me to think that westerns might be a dying genre. There’s something about the grittiness of the Old West and the kind of people it generates that fascinates me. So when I find one I really like, I want to shout it to the world.

This was one of those books. On the surface, it’s not really that original. The story is about the Birdsalls, Pelham (the Sheriff) and his wife Delight. A new gang has rolled into town, and while he’s out doing his duty, Pel gets shot in the chest. It’s touch and go there for a while, since the town doctor is a drunk, but Delight is determined not to let Pel die. She’s left somewhat watching over things, since Pel’s deputy is lazy and spends more of his time drunk as well. Currently housed in one of the cells is Tuck Moon, an ex-gunslinger who was arrested for drunk and disorderly conduct. He’s respectful and helpful to Delight, and she learns to trust him very early on. With her husband out of commission, it’s up to Delight to try and keep everyone believing that he’ll be back on the job as soon as possible to take care of the latest threat, knowing full well that he’s lucky just to be alive. Through a series of incidents, Tuck ends up becoming a deputy as soon as his sentence is up, and together the three of them do what they can to stop Endurance from becoming another ghost town.

What sets this story apart is the rich cast of characters. Each of the three primaries are strong yet flawed individuals. Pel has a sense of honor and code that goes all the way to his core, Delight was a sheriff’s daughter before getting married and finds newfound strength in the face of her husband’s adversity, and Tuck is a drifter who gets a new lease on life when someone completely unexpected trusts him. They make mistakes, but the best thing is, they learn from them and bounce back. Sometimes, they get knocked over again. They might even make the same mistake more than once. But their tenacity and force of character drives the story forward, making me care with everything I have that it all works out, even when it looks like there’s no way it possibly can. There are no cheats when it comes to the consequences of their actions. When Tuck takes a beating, it flattens him for real. He has to heal up. He doesn’t miraculously jump back to his feet to beat the bad guys down. And for all her determination to see things through, Delight doubts herself all the time. She questions her strength. She acts, oh my god, like a real person. What an absolute joy, especially since she’s not the only one.

The villains of the piece don’t have the same textures the protagonists do, but that’s a flaw of the genre in general. I also felt that some of the townspeople blended together a little too much, since so many of them weren’t willing to do anything to stand up against the bad guys (understandably so, but to the detriment of their uniqueness). Other weaknesses of the story are harder to pinpoint. For instance, I can’t tell if there’s actual headhopping going on, or if it’s just faulty formatting on the ebook side. Plus, some of the language used borders on trite and stereotypical. Considering how gritty and vivid the setting and primary characters were, that was disappointing.

Overall, though, this stands proudly with other excellent stories in its genre. With characters to care about and root for, plot twists that keep it racing forward to its conclusion, and a setting that makes the reader practically feel the dust beneath the sole of his shoe, this cements my opinion on this writer. This is the second of her westerns that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed. I’m confident it won’t be the last.


7/10 – It’s hard to tell if it’s headhopping or the formatting, and some of the stereotypical language grated after a while, but otherwise engrossing


9/10 – Loved the main characters. Gritty and flawed and completely believable


8/10 – It’s not the most innovative of ideas, but the twists that came along to get where they were going made up for it

Entertainment value

8/10 – Thoroughly entertaining, with a memorable cast

World building

9/10 – Gritty and grimy without sacrificing the newness of being in the Old West




Anonymous said...

Hello, Ms. Book Utopia. C.K. Crigger here. Thank you so much for the great, well thought out review of my book, Letter of the Law. I truly do appreciate you buying my book, liking it, and taking the time to review it.


Sunny Frazier said...

Ah, Ms. Utopia, you need to get your hands on Carol's "Two Feet Below" published by Oak Tree Press. I discovered this treasure and Carol is our first writer for the Wild Oaks Western line.

So, how does one contact you for a possible review? I have a sexy astrology mystery you might have fun with.

Angela Roe said...

Great review, I like the way you've broken it down into the various sections. Thanks!!