Those who follow my blog know I’m pretty addicted to Westerns. Thanks to blogging friend, Herb Thiel, who blogs over at The Haps With Herb (I’ve mentioned him before so he’ll be familiar to you), I can tell you I’m not the only one. His friend, A.J. McGregor (great last name) who blogs over at The Lonely Meatball also writes children’s poetry and wrote this about cowboys (reposted with his permission):
I Want To Be a Cowboy I want to be a cowboy. I think it would be fun. I’d get to ride a big horse. I’d get to tote a gun. I’d get to wear a big hat. I’d buy one that is black, and there’d be a leather vest covering my back. I’d spend my days relaxing, just riding on my horse. I’d look just like a hero and act like one, of course. But this will never happen. There is no way, no how. The trouble is I’m terrified of each and every cow.
He also posted this from Gene Autry (the poster boy for cowboys) that tells why I love the character:
Gene Autry’s Cowboy 10 Commandments
- The Cowboy must never shoot first, hit a smaller man, or take unfair advantage.
- He must never go back on his word, or a trust confided in him.
- He must always tell the truth.
- He must be gentle with children, the elderly, and animals.
- He must not advocate or possess racially or religiously intolerant ideas.
- He must help people in distress.
- He must be a good worker.
- He must keep himself clean in thought, speech, action, and personal habits.
- He must respect women, parents, and his nation’s laws.
- The Cowboy is a patriot.
Now you understand my love of the cowboy character, right? Here are a few I have read recently:
- Dark Sunrise–US Marshall Aaron Mackey is exactly who you want in your corner when there’s trouble
- The Ghost Rifle–a special rifle forges a man’s future
- American Odyssey--the sequel to Ghost Rifle
by Terrence McCauley
In Terrence McCauley’s The Dark Sunrise (Pinnacle 2020), U.S. Marshall Aaron Mackey’s life seems to be finally working out. He’s cleaned up his hometown, Dover Station. He’s getting married to the woman of his dreams. His father (who he hasn’t always been close to but finally is) is elected Mayor of Dover Station. That–of course–is when everything goes wrong, and horrifically. But the worst is when an old nemesis he thought he’d put away manages to escape incarceration and comes back to take vengeance on Mackey. Luckily, Mackey has a moral center that never wavers, a core that is as strong as a continent’s craton, and friends who stand by him.
This is another entry in the Aaron Mackey Western series, each book better than the last. While they can be read in order, they easily stand alone. Highly recommended for those who love this genre.
by Max McCoy
Max McCoy’s Ghost Rifle (Pinnacle 2021), Book 1 of A Ghost Rifle Western, seems at first a simple story. Jack Picaro comes to America to make his fortune but accidentally kills his best friend. He flees because he thinks no one will believe him, changes his name, and moves westward working on a ferry boat. It is attacked by Indians. They kill the ferry boat’s crew and steal Picaro’s gun. It’s not just any gun. He forged it, spent hours making it better than any other gun of its time. A ghost gun. He must retrieve it.
This journey to reclaim his gun is a sort of adult coming of age story, about figuring out one’s responsibilities, what’s important in life. For example, early on the journey, he kills a Buffalo cow because he’s hungry, eats one meal from it and leaves the rest to rot. The author touches–though lightly–on the waste of the animal’s life. Later, he defaces a holy Indian place by scratching his name into its stone walls. Again, as with the buffalo, he doesn’t understand the fullness of his actions.
These pieces are what bothered me about the book. I sensed the author had Picaro perform these actions so he could grow from learning how he should have acted but that isn’t clearly delineated. I would have enjoyed the story more and felt the animal’s life well-spent if this western man had learned from it. But this is only the first book of the series. The author tantalizes readers at the end as Jack is tracked down by two children he sired without even knowing it. I can’t help but think I will feel differently about the series once I’ve read the next.
Overall, this is an interesting story not like many other Westerns I’ve read.
by Max McCoy
Max McCoy’s American Odyssey (Pinnacle 2022), Book 2 of 3 in the Ghost Rifle Western series, picks up ten years after Jack Picaro loses his almost-magical Ghost Rifle. At this point, he is living with his devoted and beloved Indian wife in the mountains and off the land. What little money they require, he makes by fixing rifles for people, but it has been a long time since the last job and they are running out of staples. He agrees to help the Army find some lost troopers which he manages to do quickly. And that is where the problems begin for both Jack and me as a reader.
This book, more than the prior one deals with enough mysticism to make me wonder how it fits into the story I thought I knew. I know–a Ghost Rifle with magical properties does make you think supernatural plotlines, but this book pushes that to extremes not present in Book 1. There’s a trip to the underworld, with the help of magic potions, to make a deal with the spirits for the lives of the soldiers Jack has been sent to rescue. Trying to make sense of these diversions, it took me a while to get into the story. This was also true of Book 1, but in this case, the plot never quite snared me. Much confused me and I had trouble following the plot. It felt more like a new story than the continuation of a familiar one. McCoy is a Silver Spur award winner so I suspect his plan is to make everything clear by the end of Book 3.
Which I’m not sure I’ll read.
If you’ve read this, I’d love to hear your take on it. Did I miss important details?