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Review Detail

Westerns July 17, 2014
A Tucson rebirth – A review of the novel ‘Gunman’
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“Beware the fury of a patient man” – John Dryden Author Richard Dawes’ latest book, the fourth installment in the Tucson Kid series is entitled ‘Gunman’. As the Tucson Kid rides west, he enters the town of Cedar Flats in west Texas. While there, he captures the interest of a local rancher called Benjamin Coburn. Coburn is a businessman whose daughter Estelle has been kidnapped by a gang of outlaws who have also robbed his consignment of silver. Tucson is hired to help Coburn and his gunman assistant, Joe Black, track down and kill the outlaws who have taken refuge in the Badlands. But en route to the Badlands, the trio is captured by a tribe of rogue Comanche who threaten to kill them for trespassing on their sacred land. The only way the Tucson Kid can survive the sentence of death and ensure the safety of his companions is by undergoing a series of ordeals that will test every fibre of mental and physical strength he has. A changed Tucson emerges from these tests, but the three of them are still outnumbered and have to fight an epic battle against the gang of outlaws. Shots are fired barely a page into the book, a ‘Howdy’ sort of greeting by the Tucson Kid to all the regular readers and it’s just the sort of welcome the fans of the Tucson Kid series would have hoped for. This little ‘incident’ in the beginning also contributes towards the story as it leads the Kid to Cedar Flats; which acts as a start up point for the rest of the adventure. Tucson meets Joe Black during a game of poker at the saloon; Joe is a fast draw gunman and often the voice of reason and patience to a very impatient and passionate businessman, Benjamin Coburn. When his daughter Estelle is kidnapped while visiting her aunt in Nevada, a plan of action is drawn up to travel to the Badlands, the old commanchero country where the kidnappers are holed up. The three are accompanied on this trip by Charlotte Danson who works as the manager at the Coburn Hotel and is portrayed as the Tucson Kid’s ‘woman’ in this latest outing. If the previous books in the series worked on the principle, ‘what you see is what you get,’ then this time the theme seems to be quite the opposite, for nothing is quite as it seems. We also get to see first hand Tucson’s amazing tracking skills which have always been talked about in the previous books but here we get to see it in all its glory. The language the characters speak, the conversation pieces, all feel so genuine and real to the time period that it takes readers into the characters and lets them roam the countryside along with the Kid. There’s some brilliant writing in Gunman. There is the duel between the Comanche chief’s son, Running Elk, and Tucson. Also the part where white men must be killed if they discover the tribe’s existence, to escape which Storm Rider must become one of them by undergoing a series of trials and ordeals. All of this is a testament to Richard Dawes’ skill and mastery in this genre. There are vivid descriptions of a claustrophobia inducing task that Tucson has to undergo, a series of tests which are not for the faint hearted, and maybe that is why only Tucson is qualified to go through them. For the first time in the series, the story also dwells on a theme like, hell hath no fury like the fury of a woman scorned, which gives a surprise or twist to the story. Gunman is also a study of the demystification of the archetypal hero we’ve been introduced to so far and have become comfortable with. In this book there is an attempt to make him more accessible, better than the rest but still very human. Instead of merely putting the hero into different situations that demand he show his true ‘heroism’, Richard Dawes throughout the series has focused on showing the personal growth of the Tucson Kid. From the man we are introduced to in Storm Rider to the one we see in Gunman, the Tucson Kid has undergone a huge metamorphosis. He will never be the same again. There is a lot more action in this book and some ‘action’ seems to have gotten better, the Kid finally becomes the Man. In a pivotal but understated scene in the book, the Comanche chief recounts the horrors and the loss they endured due to the white man’s war of expansion and conquest. They are the last remnants of an ancient culture that is disappearing from the face of the earth. This is new ground for a novel of this genre. Perhaps a fictional tale such as this will inspire some readers to investigate the Tribes, their way of life, and the traditions and customs of Native American Indians. Gunman is the best of the series so far and I wonder how the author will be able to top it. But knowing the author’s ability to spring surprises on the reader by upping the ante in each book, it won’t be a surprise if ‘Lone Horseman’ turns out to be even better. 
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