Wednesday, October 14, 2009
The Finest Frontier Town in the West by I.J. Parnham
Last month I read (and reviewed) the first in I.J. Parnham’s Fergal & Randolph series, The Legend of Shamus McGinty’s Gold, and wondered how he was going to improve upon it. Well, now I know. He made the second book even funnier. This time around, the dumb guys are dumber, the greedy guys greedier, the high stakes higher, and the dire conse- quences more dire.
The closest thing to an honest character in this book is the hired gunslinger who’s after Fergal and Randolph’s hides. Evil as he is, he stays true to his word. But as far as the rest of the cast goes (and that’s covering a lot of characters), all bets are off.
It’s a contest, you see. A $10,000 prize will go the community a panel of judges deem “The Finest Frontier Town in the West.” The competition has narrowed to two contenders, and both towns are cheerfully pursuing their own crooked agendas when Fergal and Randolph happen along and turn the situation on its head.
Complications multiply as Fergal attempts to hoodwink two towns full of rascals, plus the panel of rascally judges. The tale clips nicely along from one outrageous surprise to the next until Fergal and Randolph are masters of their own fates – they can choose whether to be shot down by a merciless gunfighter or face the loaded weapons of an enraged mob.
I finished this book a week ago and it’s still vivid in my mind. But most vivid of all is a character we never actually meet. His presence looms over landscape, the very personification of Ian Parnham’s American frontier - though he never appears on stage. Read The Finest Frontier Town in the West (Avalon Books, 2003) and you’ll see what I mean. Try as you might, you’ll never forget the man known as… Warty Bill.
Coming soon: Book 3 - Miss Dempsey's School for Gunfighters