Saturday, January 10, 2015

The Lawman and the Songbird by Chap O’Keefe


Chap O’Keefe’s recent e-book is another in a long line of excellent Westerns. In The Lawman and the Songbird, Joshua Dillard, employed by the Allan Pinkerton National Detective Agency of Chicago, takes an assignment and travels to Cox City, Montana, described as a “hell-roaring boom town,” to investigate the mayhem and duplicity plaguing some of the gold prospecting operations. Disguised as a professional gambler, Dillard takes to his task and begins to encounter a variety of characters: Aces Axford, who owns a saloon called The Magnet; and Kate Thompson, sweet, hardly innocent, but still lovely; and an assortment of heavies like Blackie Dukes. Under the name James Danford, Dillard finds his cover blown almost immediately. Obviously, this assignment won’t be easy, and getting to the heart of the matter could prove lethal. As most of you know, Chap O’Keefe is a pseudonym for veteran writer Keith Chapman. The writing is excellent, and there are some plot twists that surprised me, such as who precisely becomes the new town marshal, an indication of the Chapman’s talent. He can weave a story and keep you guessing. I don’t like revealing plot details in my thumbnail reviews, so I’m generalizing here, but it’s good. Chapman is a skilled writer and there are no wasted words; the economy of his sentences, the careful plotting and larger-than life characters all serve up a nice story. The historical flourishes appear well-researched and Chapman’s apparent knowledge of firearms adds a depth of realism. As an old gun-dog myself, I wish I owned that Remington derringer with its blue steel finish made to the William Elliot patents. Anyway, the conclusion is solid and leaves open the possibility of another Joshua Dillard adventure.

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