No Good Like It Is
Author: McKendree R. Long III
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (2010)
Binding: Paperback, 332 pages
RIVETTING WESTERN SAGA HITS ALL THE BUTTONS
McKendree Long is so immersed in the historical period he writes about, his dialogue feels authentic, to the point that his characters seem channelled through living historical figures. An author with an ear this good -- who can create conversations written so it doesn't interfere with the story -- is a gift.
For example, the way the protagonist (Rebel Captain Dobey Walls) and his sidekick (Sergeant Major Jimmy "Boss" Melton) -- two Texas Rangers -- talk to each other becomes what I call short tongue common to the south and west: "Are you finished?" becomes, "Through?" Or, "This isn't working, so we'd better try something different" becomes, "Ain't no good like it is." Hence, the title of the novel. Throughout the story, the author grabs us and drops us into history -- we live during and after the American Civil War, we shiver in fear through its gruesome battles, we identify with the powerful need to survive at all cost, and we admire the courage and the stamina of the South fighting against the better-equipped hordes of troops from the North.
We learn hands-on details of the weapons used -- a Spencer carbine or Colt shotgun, for instance -- and, with Jimmy's demonstrations to the increasing stragglers following the two men, could fire every gun handled in the story. As we witness the depravity of scoundrels and cowards on both sides, we share Dobey and Jimmy's sense of justice and understand their swift execution of it. In lighter moments, our favorite "rescue" meal becomes ham, beans, corn mush, honey and buttermilk biscuits.
What drives Dobey is his determination to find his mother and crippled brother when the war is over. What drives Jimmy is his devotion to protect his captain and best friend. This author's style is sparse and action-oriented -- like a Clint Eastwood movie. While the reader is propelled from the Fort Pillow Massacre to confrontations with murderous Home Guard, bootleggers, Yankee deserters and Confederate Cherokees, our two heroes even find time to fall in love with courageous frontier women like themselves. As a western saga, I love it. Does Dobey find his mama? I’ll not tell.
Reviewed by: Bonnie Toews (2012)