Friday, August 7, 2015
Friday’s Forgotten Book: The Broken Gun
In the first paragraph of the first chapter, Dan Sheridan, a writer in Arizona doing research for a new book on the Old West, looks at a dead Native American man outside his motel. “Two police cars with flashing lights stood nearby,” started the second paragraph. Until reading those words, I did not know L’Amour had written any contemporary novels.
Sheridan is trying to find out what happened to two pioneering Texas cattlemen, brothers, who in the 1870s had driven a herd into Arizona and then disappeared. What happened to them? What happened to the cowboys employed by them? What happed to the herd?
Rumors said the Apache’s killed the men and stole the cattle. But Sheridan found a diary written by one of the brothers. Several pages of the diary were torn out and Sheridan later discovers them hidden in the barrel of a broken revolver. Those pages will help Sheridan solve the mystery.
In the meantime, a seemingly friendly rancher who does not want the writer poking around, invites Sheridan out to his spread for a visit. It is a visit Sheridan realizes too late that could end in his own mysterious disappearance.
But Dan Sheridan is not so easy to kill. He saw combat in Korea, he can ride and shoot, and he can handle himself with his fists. He also has an unexpected ally somewhere in the region. The dead man’s brother was in his army unit.
Along with the rugged southwestern men are two women: the rancher’s wife, who may be tougher than any of the cowboys, and a young woman who has inherited a neighboring ranch when her sister died in a strange accident.
L’Amour expertly weaves all these plot threads together with a dose of geography that, despite his knowledge of the west, were a little draggy. Thankfully, those sections were brief and L’Amour gets back to the problems at hand for Dan Sheridan – staying alive and finding out the truth about the brothers and the people now occupying the land.
The Broken Gun was an enjoyable read and a pleasure to spend time with a very good storyteller.