Champagne Cowboys by Leo Banks brings back the character Prospero “Whip” Stark. This western genre intertwining with a murder mystery makes for a fun read.
The author explained, “I read a piece, can’t remember where, in which Louis L’Amour, one of the 20th century’s most successful writers, expressed his objection to the term ‘Western,’ as a means to categorize his genre. He defined a ‘Western’ as historical fiction that took place on the far side of the Mississippi River, and wondered why The Last of the Mohicans wasn’t called an ‘Eastern?’ He thought literature could take place on either side of the river and bristled at the East Coast bias against anything set on the western side. About the bias, he was surely right. Plenty of great writing takes place out here that doesn’t get noticed, because the editors and agents who do the buying are so far removed from life here. What’s most interesting to people, all people everywhere, is what’s right outside their window. That’s their world, and that’s what they want to see reflected in books. Same with me. I’m looking out my window now and there’s a big sky, saguaros, and nearby some pretty deep canyons where you can lose yourself for a day or two, or for the rest of your life. So, Louis l’Amour’s point was that a good story is a good story, regardless of the genre name attached to it.”
The plot has smugglers trudge through the desert routes and a trio dubbed the Champagne Cowboys who are putting their government-trained military talents to personal use. They think of themselves as modern Robin Hoods, stealing from the rich but giving the money to themselves. After Ash Sterling, the Afghan war hero and admitted leader of the Champagne Cowboys disappears, Whip’s girlfriend, KPIN-TV reporter Roxanne Santa Cruz, asks him to check up on Ash. Unfortunately, Whip finds Ash with a bullet to his head, and so the investigation begins.
“For me, the setting of Tucson is definitely like a character. In the two books in the series, Double Wide and Champagne Cowboys, I try to make Tucson and its surroundings as much a character as Prospero Stark, Roxanne Santa Cruz, and all the others. I know the area well, and there’s much here for a writer to work with. It’s a unique place geographically for sure, with these huge, weird-looking saguaro cacti watching over us from every vantage point, and the Sonoran Desert leads the world in attracting wanderers, dreamers and misfits.”
This book is something of a sequel. In addition to the main story, the book expands at least two subplots from the first book, one concerning one of Whip’s tenants, seventeen-year-old Opal Sanchez, and another concerning Whip’s quest to prove his father innocent of the murder for which he’s been convicted.
The banter in this novel enhances the plot, keeping the narrative lively and entertaining. The Tucson backdrop of mountains, valleys, and small surrounding towns plays a strong supporting role.