Wednesday, June 22, 2011

RANCHO DIABLO 1: Shooter's Cross by Colby Jackson (Mel Odom)

Bottom Line first: I enjoyed the hell out of this book.

I guess I’m not really surprised, it’s just that I didn’t know what to expect. And whatever those nebulous expectations were, Shooter’s Cross exceeded them by a country mile.

I knew James Reasoner and Bill Crider were involved in this project, and knew they’d written books 2 and 3 in the series, respectively. I’ve read a good number of books by both those gents, and they’ve always delivered the goods. But the author of this inaugural entry, Mel Odom, was a mystery to me.

No more! Mel delivers, too, introducing the Rancho Diablo saga in grand fashion. Shooter’s Cross is sort of an origin story, in which nail-tough Army scout Sam Blaylock lays eyes on Rancho Diablo and never looks back. The locals, residents of the nearby town of Shooter’s Cross, think the place is haunted, but Sam thinks it’s the perfect place to make a home for his friends and family.

In this one, we meet two of Sam’s old friends: Duane Beatty, a stalwart Cajun with a knack for engineering, and Michael Tucker, a wizard with a six-gun. And two new ones: An aptly-named old coot called Gabby (think Hayes) and a young whippersnapper from the town named Randy. These four appear slated to be regulars in the series, and offer many directions for future storylines.

Meanwhile, back in Shooter’s Cross, there’s stern-but-fair Marshal Tolliver, who seems destined to be strong ally, and newspaperman/gambler Mitch McCarthy, a capable adversary. With these members of the cast in place, we’re ready for the arrival of Sam’s wife and kids in the next installment.

The story is compelling, the prose smooth and the dialogue tight. It all adds up to a great read, and has me eager to see what Misters Reasoner and Crider have for us in the next two books. And thankfully, I won’t have to wait. All three books are available for Kindle RIGHT NOW, and for us old-fashioned paper book collectors, Shooter’s Cross is also offered in paperback.

More info at the Rancho Diablo Blog, including the very good news that this intrepid trio already has a spin-off series in the works!


Deka Black said...

This is a title so badass that make me want to read the book. I mean: Good titles are as important or more than a good cover to atract potetial readers.

James Reasoner said...

This book is even more impressive when you realize it's the first Western Mel has written. I thought he did a splendid job.

The plan is for #2 to be available in paperback later this summer.

Ron Scheer said...

Great review. Thanks. The focus is on all the right things and makes me want to get the book. The ensemble cast of characters promises to draw strength from the kind of energy that drove the series DEADWOOD. (And I hope the marshal is no relative of Cy Tolliver.) Also the theme of community building. Makes for a change from the lone-avenger hero of so much current western fiction.

Mel Odom is a new name to me, and I'm pleased that he's apparently hit one out of the park with his first at-bat.

James Reasoner said...

Mel's done a ton of great stuff in other genres. Check out his blog for links to all the e-books he has available:

Charles Gramlich said...

I'm on it.

Cap'n Bob said...

Already read and enjoyed the series so far. I add my recommendation.