Monday, February 23, 2015

Ragtime Cowboys / Loren D. Estleman / 268 pages / Western

  When the word Western is mentioned what comes to mind? Horses, cowboy hats, spurs and dust. Always dust. What about a detective western? Not ringing a bell?! Well to be honest they are few and far between. Most westerns seem to involve vengeance of some kind, a long trail to follow or Indians somewhere in the picture. Ragtime Cowboys is a fun departure with snappy dialogue, cowboys long in the tooth and an ending that may or may not be satisfying.
  Real life Pinkerton detective Charles A. Siringo and Dashiell Hammett join forces to find Wyatt Earp's horse and end up running into political corruption. Siringo is eking out an existence writing stories when Earp offers him a chance to earn some money. He encounters Hammett and the two work together to find out why the mystery points them towards Jack London's farm and beyond to the beginnings of the Teapot Dome scandal and Joseph Kennedy.
   The novel is set within the confines of Southern California with some Western cinema thrown in. The book is light, fast paced with snappy snarky dialogue. Unfortunately I wasn't up to date on my 1920's slang and political machinations so most of the book wasn't making sense until I read a couple of articles online. Bad language wasn't a factor but there was some unexpected violence. If Westerns are your thing it wasn't out of place. There was a 'buddy' feel to it and to see some true historical figures in an unexpected light was a treat. A perfect different take on a Western novel.

Reading connections: The Last Kind Words Saloon by Larry McMurtry; Road to Reckoning by Robert Launter; The Bughouse Affair by Marcia Muller & Bill Pronzini.

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