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


I.J. Parnham said...

Thanks for the review and as you say, who can forget Warty Bill? Well, I can't believe it but I had. At the time he was meant to grow in legendary status, but, darn it, for some reason I moved on without him.

Anyhow, at the risk of this coming over as a mutual admiration society I'd urge everyone to read the forthcoming anthology of western short stories A Fistful of Legends. I did an article yesterday on it at and Dave's story is a hoot. In all truth I can't think of a comic western story I've enjoyed more. That story alone is worth the cost of the book!

Cap'n Bob said...

Warty Bill. An obvious homage to our friend in Alvin.