It is my habit to read westerns or mysteries before bed. I save poetry and more “difficult” reading for mornings when I am feeling fresher and more focused. But before bed, there is nothing like a good western or mystery novel to comfort and calm a restless spirit.
One of the nice thing about westerns is that you can often find paperback volumes with two different novellas published together for one price. Tor was one of the publishers who specialized in these kind of “double action” westerns.
While there are a number of good to very good mystery writers, sadly there are not very many good western writers. It has been my experience that usually Lewis B. Patten is one of the best, but Sharpshod is not one of his better efforts. The plot is thin and the writing lazy.
Ron Scheer has said that writing westerns is often like shuffling cards. You have a few basic characters and places and plot lines and simply shuffle around how things are going to go.
In the case of Sharpshod, the first novella in Tor Double Action Western #3, the elements are a tortured young man, a beautiful girl, a big cattle ranch, a mean and widowed rancher, and a crooked boss.
It is not the plot of Sharpshod that disappoints though, it is the writing. Patten has the capability of writing some of the best Western noir lines going, but none of that is on display here. He resorts too often to tired and lazy language instead of “showing” us how something or someone is.
Briefly, bitterness marred Will’s smooth and dark-tanned face. Bitterness mixed with obscure puzzlement.
Exultation stirred in Will Counselman.
Caution stirred in sheriff’s eyes, and with hand on gun he approached.
Pride brought Will weakly to his feet, and he drew Laura close against him, even now stirred by her warmth and softness.
In short, Sharpshod “stirred” a comfortable disappointment in this reader. I do have higher hopes for They Called Him Killer (The second novella in Tor Double Action Western #3).