Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Six Ways From Sunday - Review by Bob Davis

Six Ways From Sunday
William W. Johnstone with J.A. Johnstone
Pinnacle Books, Kensington Publishing Corporation

Review by Bob Davis, Owner of Bob Davis Editing and Member National Book Critic’s Circle

Fans of William Johnstone westerns, get ready for something unique. Six Ways From Sunday is not your typical Johnstone western adventure. Oh, sure, it has a well-told story with a hero, beautiful women, nasty villians, and a great hardheaded horse named Critter. But Cotton Pickens (and yes he’s well aware of the parody aspect of his name) is definitely not your typical Johnstone hero.

We can only assume he’s good with a gun because he seems to have a reputation for it, but the only gunfight he actually gets into involves more luck than skill. In fact, he has his gun taken from him on several occasions. And he’s definitely not the strong, silent type whose also good with his fists. Rather, he gets the stuffing beaten out of him more than once. But in many ways that’s what makes Cotton such a great hero. He’s the everyman, your average Joe who tries his best to avoid trouble, but tends to find himself right in the thick of it. And while he may be flawed, Cotton clearly tries to do what’s right, even if it means getting shot at, beaten up, or just plain stomped before he triumphs in the end. The man doesn’t know when to quit and that’s why he’s a hero.

Six Ways From Sunday is also unique in the telling. This is the first Johnstone book I’ve come across that’s written in the first person narrative. Cotton tells usthe story in his own words and as he describes the events for us we get a real insiders view of both the hero and the story. We get to see first hand his reaction to the beautiful Amanda Trouville, a gorgeous blonde who makes Cotton weak in the knees. She works with another parody of a name, Carter Scruples, a man who has everything but scruples. And somehow Cotton finds himself conned into working for Scruples and Amanda, but as one might expect everything is not what it seems.

Scruples wants to overtake every mine and glory hole in the Swamp Creek mining district, by whatever means necessary, so he can sell it off as a package. Cotton soon realizes not all Scruples methods are legal and people are getting killed, so despite having a number of run-ins with the miners, Cotton takes their side. In doing so he meets the beautiful Celia, the 16-year old widow of the owner of the biggest mine. He also meets up with Cletus Carboy, the rather sneaky owner of the second biggest mine. And as they join up to try to overcome Scruples, Cotton learns that Amanda didn’t really know what Scruples planned and she pays the price for trying to get out of their arrangement..

Six Ways From Sunday may not have your typical gunfights or fistfights with the hero winning, but it has a story of intrigue and mystery with just enough action to keep things moving and draw the reader in. And while Cotton Pickens is no Smoke Jensen or Preacher or Matt Bodine, he’s a very likable hero. So much so that after reading this book I find myself wanting to go back and read of his earlier adventures in Blood Valley.

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