Book Review: Black Rock Canon by Les Savage, Jr.

Del Rockwall is a Texas horse runner working the high country of Montana for wild mustangs with his young partner Tie Taylor. On the day Rockwall first sees the most beautiful wild horse he has ever seen he also meets the most wild and beautiful woman (Aldis Spain) he has ever seen. Both the horse and the woman are claimed by one man, Kenny Graves, who will stop at nothing to possess them both.

All the ingredients that make a classic noir story are here: anti-heroes and moral ambivalence; a femme fatale and dark inescapable destiny. Black Rock Canon is classic western noir because it is classic Les Savage, Jr.

As a writer, Savage’s stories do at times require a willing suspension of disbelief. Yet there is something in his poetic prose and the strong, unrelenting undercurrent of fate that keeps you reading. It is a dark vision, but one you find difficult to put down.

One of the hallmarks of a noir story, western or otherwise, is this sense of inexorable circumstance and fate… characters locked into a grim battle they cannot ultimately escape . Savage, Jr., captures this well. His characters are haunted and hunted men and women, battling simultaneously the situation they find themselves in and one another.

The geography of Montana that Savage describes is an “idealized” one… or more properly an iconicone. It is a wild and mountainous place of great valleys and great ranches and violent boom towns. It is western mythic.

Black Rock Canon is available at Amazon in both paperback and kindle editions.

I end with some quotes from Black Rock Canon, courtesy of the kindle highlight function. Great writing? Perhaps not. Great classic western noir lines? Indeed!



Some Quotes

“The parallel struck him. A man could want this kind of horse as intensely as he could want a woman.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

He gained the tamarack and poplars along the trickle of water. The timber was bunched in dense patches here, and beyond its tangled mat a sentinel peak had speared a falling ball of fire. Light spread in a crimson tide from this impaled sun as if it were flooding the world with its life’s blood, to form ruddy pools of the open glades and cover the forest floor with a sanguine dappling. The foliage of the poplars caught it up thirstily, till each slick olive-green leaf gave off a brazen glitter. It made a tawny illusion of the shadows, to close about Rockwall like a dark mist whenever he left the patches of light.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

“The moon was a painter, splashing the earth with a pot full of yellow ochre. The wolves were singers, filling the night with their mournful chorus. The brush was an audience, applauding in ghostly whispers with each passage of wind.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

He knew a momentary disgust with himself that he could feel such desire for the wife of his friend. Then he knew how foolish that was. A man couldn’t help what he felt; he didn’t have that much control over his emotions. It was what he did about them that counted.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

It was an odd habit of mind, he often reflected, to test the past against the future, when so many were content to let each experience fade so soon behind them. It had been taken for cynicism in him. But a man didn’t make the same mistake twice, very often, if he put things together this way.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

“Like a beautiful woman you can’t leave alone. We’re wound up with that horse, Kammas, and, if one of us can’t finish it, the next one has to, one way or the other.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *.

His head seemed empty now. He was left with the sense of awesome inevitability, as if following out some plan that had been ordained for him long ago.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *..

He tried to read defeat in the lines of her silhouette, standing there, watching the end of everything she had tried to gain by playing so many ends against the middle. But, somehow, he could not find defeat. She seemed as unbridled, as defiant as ever. She was like Blue Boy. One man could never hold her. Probably no man ever would.

Savage Jr., Les (2009-01-01). Black Rock Canon . Dorchester Publishing. Kindle Edition.


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