“Silver City” by Jeff Guinn is a fascinating historical Western that blends action and adventure with factual information. He is not a stranger to Westerns, having written two other novels in this series and a non-fiction book about the shootout at the O.K. Corral.
In this story, revenge and vengeance take center stage. Readers might remember that the male lead, Cash McLendon, is on the run as he tries to hide from a murderous thug, Killer Boots. His former employer, a powerful St. Louis businessman, wrongly blames him for the death of his drug-addicted daughter. In addition, Cash is attempting to win over Gabrielle Tirrito, the woman he initially wanted to wed but spurned when he was pressured to marry into wealth and prestige. After being seen as a reluctant hero of the epic Indian battle at Adobe Walls, he has journeyed to Mountain View in the Arizona Territory with one goal: to convince Gabrielle Tirrito that he is a changed man and win her back from schoolteacher Joe Saint. Killer Boots, aka Patrick Brautigan kidnaps Gabrielle to force Cash to trade himself for the love of his life. He, his good friend Major Mulkins, and his rival for Gabrielle Joe Saint hit the trail in pursuit of Killer Boots, hoping to make a trade before it’s too late.
The book has very well developed characters. Gabrielle is seen as a tough, intelligent, and independent. Cash is an opportunist, caring, who grows in character with each book. Joe Saint is resentful, manipulative, who uses guilt to get his way, and spineless. The antagonist Killer Boots is fierce, frightening, without any moral code. He subdues his victims using overwhelming intimidation, both psychologically and physically. There is also the terrain, which in many ways is a character as well. It plays a role with the overwhelming dust, mountain range, and floods. Readers get a sense of the setting, feeling as if they were there, while getting a flavor of what the Arizona frontier was like.
The provinces displayed are mining towns where prospectors were able to hike into the nearby mountains to find silver and gold. Guinn describes Silver City as “a seedy hell hole run by a corrupt sheriff. Towns that sprung up around mineral strikes either aspired to sophistication or descend into anarchy. I hoped I provided real historical context that contrasted Mountain View and Silver City. Mountain View was a sophisticated town that had bowling alleys, ice cream parlors, and eventually libraries. There was also Clantonville where Newman, Ike, and Finn tried to establish a town controlled by them. They are typical of a group of individuals who came into the frontier to make their own fortune.”
Guinn furthermore pointed out how “the women throughout the frontier are the ones who actually made the settlements something more than bare subsistence. The men brought in the economic system while the women brought in the culture and lifestyle. In this book Gabrielle is working at a hotel at the same time she is helping to organize a library system for the community. In the first book, “Glorious,” the character Sydney Chow provided laundry services, but also much needed medical care. By the way she is not gone and will be heard from again.”
Readers will enjoy an action packed book, but also enjoy how the author intertwines into the plot the Western history, culture, and influences. These books of western fiction are based on real history that gives readers a feel for the frontier.