Everybody deserves a second start.
You’d never begrudge a down-on-his-luck fellow a new lease on life. It’s his right to begin over, to get another chance to fix what broke, and to seize new opportunities. Yep, a clean slate does a body good and, as you’ll see in “Glorious” by Jeff Guinn (c.2014, Putnam, $26.95, 407 pages), it keeps him from getting killed.
Cash McLendon always had a knack for people-skills.
It started when he was young, when he convinced businessmen not to fire his no-good, alcoholic father. It continued when his father died, and McLendon talked his way into a place to sleep and a clean-up job where he eavesdropped for gossip that he passed to factory owner Rupert Douglass. His industriousness impressed Douglass enough to take the young man under his wing, into his home, and into his family.
Finally, McLendon had everything he’d ever wanted in life — money, power, and status — but it came with a price. Douglass’ daughter, Ellen, was prone to fits of white-hot anger and irrationality, and McLendon hoped he’d grow fond of her after their marriage. Still, he couldn’t forget Gabrielle, the woman he really loved.
She was on his mind, in fact, as he fled St. Louis after Ellen was found dead by her own hand. McLendon knew Douglass would find him, just as he knew Douglass would blame him for Ellen’s suicide. So, partly as a hiding place and partly as a second chance at love and life, McLendon followed Gabrielle to Glorious, Texas.
Perched near the Pinal Mountains, Glorious was little more than half-finished shacks and a few tents surrounded by desert and Apache territory.
It boasted a hotel and a drinking establishment, a livery, a Chinese laundry, and a dry goods store that serviced the miners. It was dry, sticky-hot, dangerous, and dying; few visitors ever came through and fewer stayed, though residents hoped Glorious’ nearest neighbor might help save the town. Wealthy rancher Colin MacPherson owned most of the valley anyway — and early in his stay, Cash McLendon knew that MacPherson wanted to own Glorious, too …
Set in 1872, “Glorious” is a surprisingly modern old-time western that starts out with a gruesome murder but tames almost immediately. That’s good for readers who want an oater rather than blood-and-torture, but not so good for anyone who wants a little more gunsmoke and gunslinging.
While I liked the basic premise of this book, I wasn’t wild about Cash McLendon. Author Jeff Guinn makes McLendon quite the dandy, uncomfortable on a horse and unable to shoot, which seemed to be the antithesis of a western hero to me. I also had some problem with the book’s predictability and the choppiness. Still, there were some surprises in the story and enough Old West to keep me occupied until the cliffhanger ending.
If mysteries have a subgenre called “cozy,” this slower-paced western could be said to be a “mosey.” It’s leisurely with some spice and, despite its flaws, ain’t all bad. And if that’s what you need, then “Glorious” is a book you should start.
The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.