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Bewildering Stories

A. C. Smith, The Wanted Lawman

reviewed by Alison McBain

The Wanted Lawman
Author: A.C. Smith
Publisher: Gray Ghost Publishing
Date: January 3, 2017
Paperback: 282 pages
ISBN: 1946573000; 9781946573001
Price: $8.99

I haven’t read a lot of Westerns, although I always enjoy them when I do. A. C. Smith’s The Wanted Lawman is no exception. Full of adventure, romance, gun-slinging, good guys and bad guys, it has everything you’d want from the genre.

The story begins in 1884 with two homeless orphans, a fifteen-year-old boy and his eight-year-old sister, Emily. The boy is abducted by the Haskins Gang, a group of murderers and rapists, while his sister is left for dead. He tells the gang his name is Nick to protect his own identity, with the hope of going back later to try and save his sister.

Jesse Vargas, a boy who has also been trapped by the gang, becomes Nick’s friend during the months of their captivity. Both of the boys manage to escape, but not before they become wanted by the law for their involvement with the Haskins Gang.

Skip ahead ten years, and Jesse Morgan and his friend Tracker are deputies in the town of St. Elmo under Sheriff Lee Davis. Jesse realizes some men passing through are really horse thieves - and, more than that, one of them used to run with the Haskins Gang and recognizes him. In a panic, Jesse sparks off a gunfight that ends up in the outlaws’ deaths. The outlaws had a price on their heads, and Jesse goes to the nearby large city of Denver to pick up the reward for killing them. While there, he also offers to do a favor for his boss by escorting Cecilia, Sheriff Lee’s sister-in-law, back to St. Elmo’s.

But Cecilia is a beautiful woman, and Jesse and she get close while journeying back together. Unfortunately, there are more members of the Haskins gang at large, and they are looking for revenge on Jesse for his betrayal.

At the same time, a bounty hunter comes looking for Jesse, as the deputy is still a wanted man. The ensuing standoff between the law on one side and outlaws on the other is a tension-filled ride with a dozen ups and downs before the book comes to its satisfying conclusion.

I thought this was a fun story and will appeal to readers looking for an adventure tale with plenty of twists and turns. While there were a couple of convenient coincidences in the plot, I felt that they can be overlooked for the sake of the story. The writing is really strong, with good touches of humor and realistic dialogue, as well as likable characters. It’s easy to root for the good guys and boo the bad guys - there’s little confusion as to who is who.

While the main character does have a bit of inner conflict over some sordid events in his past, Jesse isn’t a truly tortured soul. Likewise, the female lead is a good example of a strong woman to balance her male counterpart, although Cecilia doesn’t verge into the “kicking ass and taking names” category. Instead, she has more realistic limitations on her actions in terms of the time period in which the novel is set.

I enjoyed reading The Wanted Lawman, and I hope you do, too.

Copyright © 2017 by Alison McBain

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