Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Book Review: Wyatt in Wichita by John Shirley

Wyatt in Wichita: A Historical Novel

by John Shirley

Paperback, 320 pages

Published August 5th 2014 by Skyhorse Publishing

Wyatt in Wichita is a novel I have been reading buzz about for a long time. Being that one of my all time favorite authors was spending years working on passion project western, I had of course been intrigued. I really hate to think of authors ever as totally genre exclusive, I mean in this case John Shirley while know as both a Horror and Science Fiction writer transcends the genres everytime he writes a novel marketed in either genre.

Authors known for genre fiction have a history of writing historical novels that they consider some of their best work, and often they end up pleading with their readers to pay attention to these books. David Morrell a thriller writer known as the father of Rambo had this experience with the Last Reveille and F.Paul Wilson with Black Wind (However The Wilson novel fits into his mythos and doesn't feel like a departure to me). Each are excellent novels, and WIW clear deserves equal praise.

While it is a historical western on the surface it doesn;t seems like a departure for the writer who stories were once called Lollipops of Pain, Shirley was up to his old tricks. He delivered an intense view of the world just set in this period.

Focused on a less famous part of the legendary life of Wyatt Earp's life this novel follows a fictionalized murder case. This is a tool to explore the life of the famous sometimes Lawman sometimes gambler. While sometimes the legend paints a hero, or villain the strength of this novel is shades of grey Shirley paints with. This novel has plenty of action but it is above all a character study.

I recently read/reviewed a horror western that I thought lacked many elements needed for a successful Western I was pleased that they were all here. Period accurate action, engulfing natural landscapes that jumped off the page and characters that made me a little uncomfortable. That is a western in a nut shell.

I found myself dog earing some pages and marking some quotes that I really liked. Many of things quotes will show off the tiny details that set the western tone such as…

“It was largely a land without Borders - something that attracted him and disturbed him both. The land didn't need laws. But the people did."

“The room was quiet, for a moment, but for their breathing. Santilli waited for the order to commence shooting.”

“It was a hot day, though scarely past midmorning. When the weather turned in the Dakotas, Swinnington reflected, it turned like a marching solider doing a left face.”

Read it! Up next an interview with John Shirley about this novel...

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