I don’t often read Westerns. In fact, I don’t recall ever reading one until now – not even Lonesome Dove if you can believe it – but man, I love Western films. I have my Dad to thank for that. I remember being a little kid, he and I sitting down on Sunday afternoons to watch Channel 5’s feature presentation of the week. This was back when the television had an actual dial you had to turn to change channels. You actually had to get up from the sofa. Eff that ess. But Dad and I would sit there side by side, each of us with a plate of peanut butter crackers and a mug of chocolate milk and a Western film on the television. I will now forever associate those food items and Westerns with my Dad.
For Father’s Day this year, I sent him a copy of Jeff Guinn’s Glorious after seeing it at my local Barnes & Noble and reading some good reviews. After he read it, I decided I wanted to read it so I bought a copy for myself. Not quite the same as sitting beside him on the sofa watching John Wayne six-gun some stagecoach robbers, but the sense of nostalgia was there nonetheless.
Glorious begins with a brutal prologue and then jumps into the main story about a young man on the run, looking for a place to hide, but also with designs on a lady. He lands in a dusty little town in the middle of the Arizona Territory where he hears this lady might be because when you’re on the run from danger, the first thing you want to do it put a person you care about in that same danger. Glorious includes several Western staples: prospectors hunting for precious ore, a smelly saloon with bad beer and bar brawls, a wealthy rancher, the threat of attack by Apaches, and the ever-present Sheriff. The supporting characters are well-written and I enjoyed getting to know them and felt for them when they struggled. Even more so than the characters, Guinn nailed the setting. I could clearly picture the town of Glorious, knew where each little adobe building was, felt the dust and grit on the hotel floor underfoot, the oppressive heat so early in the morning, and could smell the beer and stale sweat of the saloon at night.
As expected, or at least as I had hoped, it all comes together in a good old-fashioned Western shoot-out but just when the climactic conclusion is due, the story is interrupted by one of the most conspicuous deus ex machinas I have ever read. My disappointment was palpable as the book dropped into my lap. As Dad and I agreed, it seemed like an amateur move, though forgivable considering this is the first novel from Guinn, a veteran of non-fiction tales like The Last Gunfight and We Go Down Together. I’m not giving up though. Jeff Guinn is writing a follow-up to Glorious and the first ninety-nine percent of it was good enough for me to give the next one a read. I feel like I want to watch Silverado now though. And snack on some peanut butter crackers and chocolate milk with my Dad.