After the great enjoyment I got from Lou Cameron’s first book, the jazz/crime novel Angel’s Fight (reviewed HERE), I was eager to try some of his westerns. And I was pleased to see there were a lot of them, though most were in “Adult” series, including about fifty Longarms, thirty-six Renegades and fifteen Stringers.
It started off great. Cameron’s narration here is not as Hammettish as in Angel’s Flight, but it’s sharp and creative, with many an entertaining turn of phrase. I liked the subject matter, too. Stringer, so-called because he’s a freelance writer for the San Francisco Sun, is assigned a piece to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the death of Joaquin Murietta. There’s a lot of speculation about whether the head collected by Capt. Love was really Murietta’s, or if Murietta existed at all. Could it be that was just a name invented to mask the identities of various Mexican outlaws? Interesting stuff.
I liked the setting, too. The series takes place takes place when the West was Old, and already fading from memory to legend. Frank James and Cole Younger, we learn, are on the lecture circuit, warning of the wages of sin. Stinger has an interesting background, having worked as a ranch hand while attending Stanford, and reported on Teddy and the Roughriders in Cuba.
Unfortunately, this being an “Adult” western, the story barely gets going before we have an obligatory sex scene. Like almost all of them in such books, it’s just damned silly, and stops the story cold. After that, I kept expecting the story to pick up, but it just sort of loped along in the background, with a lot of well-written but meaningless jabber until the next sex scene.
But there just wasn’t enough story to keep me interested. By the time I gave up, just over halfway through, there had been three sex scenes, very little out-of-bed action, and no real progress toward answering the Murietta questions. It just wasn’t worth my time.
I haven’t given up on Cameron yet. I’d still like to try another of his old Gold Medal mysteries, and maybe a non-Adult western, but this was not an encouraging stop on the journey.