Friday, June 5, 2015

Forgotten Books: MEDICINE SHOW by Bill Crider (1990)


The first character we meet in Medicine Show claims to be Kit Carson, but he isn't. His boss, the Colonel, isn't really a colonel. The Colonel's wife, the Indian squaw Ro-Shanna, and his daughter, the Indian maiden Banju Ta-Ta, are not really Indians. Along with a doctor (who hasn't been a real doctor for a very long time) they form the company of a thoroughly unauthentic "Authentic Indian Medicine Show," and travel the West selling phony medicine.

Most of their sales efforts are devoted to Indian Vitality Pills, which are sort of an Old West version of Viagra. Men folk want them to cure their "Secret Sorrow," and women want them to cure their men. Should Mr. Crider be hailed as a visionary, foretelling the coming of such drugs? We'll let history decide.

As the story begins, the troupe arrives in a small East Texas town with identity problems of its own. If it has a name, we never learn it. The town sheriff is secretly an outlaw, in league with a pair of slimeball brothers who run a sort of lackadasical protection racket. The guy who thinks he runs the town has no real power, and the only citizen man enough to use a gun is the preacher.

As you've no doubt guessed, this is not your average shoot-em-up. It's a complex story with at least eleven point-of-view characters, and all but two of them (the slimeball brothers who are unrelentingly bad) have their own character arcs. There are themes everywhere you look. Revenge. Redemption. Unrequited love. Unrequited lust. One character discovers he's a coward, then discovers he ain't. One crawls out of bottle and proves himself, then crawls back in. One wants somethiing she can't have until she realizes what she's already got. Some scenes have so much going on that point-of-view shifts from one paragraph to the next. That's a tough thing for a writer to pull off, but Mr. Crider does it and makes you like it.

Bottom line, it's a fast-moving, entertaining and satisfying tale, with happy endings for those who deserve them, and just deserts for those who don't. And while the 1990 hardcover edition ain't easy to come by, a shiny new Kindle version is just a few clicks away. You'll find that HERE.

One cool thing about the hardcover, though, is the back cover photo of Bill and his bookshelf. I took a close-up look at that shelf in yesterday's post, "Secrets of BILL CRIDER's Bookshelf," and found a few surprises. I invite you to check that out HERE.



9 comments:

Cap'n Bob said...

I hunted for this a long time before I finally found it. I read it, too, but I'm durned if I can remember anything about it even after reading your review. Time to haul it out again.

Bill Crider said...

Thanks for the review. I'll bet people these days would be driven nuts by what they like to call "PoV hopping," but I love doing it. That "Pepto cover" is an eye-catcher.

Charles Gramlich said...

yeah, that cover is...dramatically toned. Sounds like an awesome story though. Lots of fun. I haven't read it but will check it out.

Todd Mason said...

The Evans series wasn't well-packaged or marketed, but they did have roster of impressive novels...I'm sorry I've not yet come across this one...time to borrow Alice's Kindle.

Todd Mason said...

"Well, the title is about medicine...that helps with impotence...what color suggests both medicine and sex? Ah!"

Keith West said...

Another book to add to the pile. I hope the pile doesn't fall over and crush me, even virtually speaking.

Oscar said...

Sounds funny with all the characters not who they really are. Will have to get a copy.

Bill Pronzini said...

This is my favorite of the westerns of yours I've read. Very nicely done.

Bill Crider said...

Thanks, Bill. Glad you liked it!