Friday, 20 May 2011
THE WIDOW MAKER by Lance Howard
Published 1997 - Black Horse Western.
This was the second Black Horse Western that I read.
The Widow Maker is Brace Carrigan, a one eyed outlaw who leads a gang of women. The toothless Shale, the big Bertha, Mexican triplets April, May and June with the bookish Calamity Annie with her mousy look and wire framed glasses make up the gang and they all lack a love of men.
And that is what the gang leaves behind - widows. But all this dates back to Carrigan's childhood and a bullying father who killed Brace's mother. Even when his life is threatened by a woman he cannot bring himself to kill her.
And that threat is real.
For, after being wounded in a gold robbery, he kills the doctor who tends to his wound. This leaves his Chinese 'partner', Sarah, alone with her grief.
The gang has become the target of bounty hunter Steve Matthews. This is his last hunt as he intends to find himself some land and marry a girl called Elena.
On the trail he becomes aware of a crow and the half breed hunter wonders if he has a spirit guide. This as he is attacked and wounded by a bunch of renegade Indians.
With approaching delerium and following the spirit guide he reaches Sarah's home. As she tends Steve's wounds he drifts into a spirit world where nothing seems to make sense.
It is only when he recovers that he and Sarah join together to bring an end to the Widow Gang.
Like all good books it is not just figuring that you know the ending but the journey to get there. Lance Howard brings his characters to life. Although there can be some empathy with Brace Carrigan's childhood there is no sympathy for the man he has become.
And Steve coming to terms with strange dreams and their meaning rings true. Though I could not help but think that, maybe, there was a tip of the hat to the comic book hero 'The Crow'.
Even so 'The Widow Maker' is a very good read both for those who want to read their first western and for those looking for a starter by this author.
Lance Howard has written 30 westerns and in the last four months has had another four novels accepted for publication.