Monday, June 29, 2009

Blast to Oblivion - review

Inspired by Conan Doyle’s The Valley of Fear, this twenty-first Black Horse Western by Chap O’Keefe (Keith Chapman) starts with a bang – a shotgun killing in Denver.

Ex Pinkerton Joshua Dillard was hired by the deceased’s sister, Flora, to investigate the murder. She suspected that her brother’s wife was concealing something – particularly as she had moved away with her male secretary Joseph Darcy to the mining town of Silverville. When Dillard arrives there, he meets up with an unusual character with the monicker of Poverty Joe, who happens to be instrumental in saving Dillard from some desperadoes. Dillard interviewed the ungrieving widow but couldn’t find any evidence to link her with her husband’s death. Besides the unwelcome attentions of the desperadoes led by Cord Skann, Dillard also has to contend with the duplicitous Marshal Broadstreet.

This is an enjoyable yarn and it’s clear that the author has written about Joshua Dillard a number of times (this is his seventh appearances, in fact; the character fits like a well-worn glove. Subtle evidence of research crops up from time to time, too. ‘An English lady traveller in the district had recorded that bad temper and profanity in the presence of women was widespread.’ I could be wrong, but this may be alluding to Fanny Trollope’s classic ‘Domestic Manners of the Americans’.

The action-packed story is laced with humour as well as gunplay. The twist at the end is neat and it’s satisfying for both the reader – and especially for Dillard – that Flora is a woman of her word.

(It looks as though the cover features the same artist whose artwork adorns my latest BHW too; nothing to do with the book, but a stirring action-packed cover anyway).
Nik (Ross Morton)


Jan Jones said...

Good review, Nik, and it sounds an enjoyable read.

Chap O'Keefe said...

Many thanks, Nik. The English lady traveller was Isabella L. Bird. Her Lady's Life in the Rocky Mountains was a collection of letters published in London in 1879 by John Murray. The edition I have is the one reproduced by Virago Press from the third edition, 1880. It is fascinating reading and I have used it before -- notably when writing The Outlaw and the Lady and Ride the Wild Country.

Most of the research I did for Blast to Oblivion was for the Denver background and came from a wide variety of sources.

The cover artist is Michael Thomas, whom I wrote about for the covers edition of Black Horse Extra (Sept 2007), which can still be found at . Michael is an email pal now -- and the artist responsible for what I consider the best portrait of my other western series character, Misfit Lil. As you may have noticed, he is particularly strong on portraiture.

Nik said...

Thanks, Keith. Yes, I've got that edition of Isabella Bird's book too. You can never have too many resources!