Present at the creation. Those are the words that came to mind when I downloaded and read Edward A. Grainger's Adventures of Cash Laramie and Gideon Miles. This writing business is a funny thing. No matter when you start--either reading or writing or both--there are, at that moment, old masters, seasoned veterans, and fresh-faced rookies. It's natural to form a professional bond with those who find themselves at about the same place you are when you start, each with a similar goal: write stories that others want to read.
David Cranmer, the man behind the pen name Edward A. Grainer, is one of the first writers with whom I made a connection back in 2008. In preparation for this review, I went back and read through some of our earlier back-and-forths. It's a fun little time capsule. Over the years, he and I realized that we like similar stories, and we traded reviews and recommendations back and forth. When David saw an opening for an online pulp e-zine, he created Beat to a Pulp as a showcase. I'm proud to say that my first published story found a home within those illustrious pixilated covers.
Somewhere along the line, as writers are wont to do, David asked if I'd be game for reading one of his short stories. It featured a U. S. Marshall in the old west named Cash Laramie. I said sure and he passed along one, then another, and another. I enjoyed each adventure of Cash and his partner, Gideon Miles, and, frankly looked forward to additional requests from David.
But I read those tales piecemeal, in rough drafts, with endings that weren't entirely sussed out. The beauty of this first anthology of the adventures of these two marshals is progression not only of the characters but of the writer.
Cash isn't completely John Wayne, all good and honorable, but he isn't William Holden from the Wild Bunch either. He is, not to put too fine a point on it, merely human. He wears a badge and that badge dictates many of his actions. His job, with his partner, is to bring in the outlaws. Now, the means by which he accomplishes this feat is left largely to his discretion. I've just finished reading the new James Bond novel, Carte Blanche, and there's a good deal of that outlook spicing these tales. Cash and Miles recognize the validity of law, but also the vicissitudes of the real world. "Under the Sun" is a good example of the partners dealing with life as they find it rather than life as it should be. One of the greatest pleasures in reading a new Cash Laramie story is, after being presented with the crime or the mystery, wondering just how Laramie and Miles will react.
For fans of the traditional western, Cranmer has you covered. "The Wind Scorpion," the opening yarn, opens with Cash in a world of hurt. After being nursed back to health by a lonely woman, he sets off to find his quarry. Lead flies in all the stories, and the body count rises. That's the spirit of the spaghetti westerns that Cranmer writes, in the introduction, were a large inspiration for the character of Cash.
It is Cash's humanness that often shines through and takes a story to the next level. He gets hurt. I like that in a character, for it is the hurting that often dictates a man's actions. When Cash hurts on the inside that he can be most dangerous. "Melanie" tells the story of a young girl who sells flowers in town. After Cash rescues her from being trampled, he discovers evidence of abuse. Infuriated, he seeks justice for the young lass. I will not spoil the ending here, but I'll say that this story's ending is, probably, my favorite here in this collection. Then there is another type of justice, as shown in "The Outlaw Marshal." It is a testament to Cash the character and Cranmer the writer that most readers will find themselves liking and identifying with both of these stories.
Now, some of you reading this review might demur on this collection with the statement "I don't do westerns." On the whole, I don't either, but I'm branching out and reading more. Despite my father and grandfather devouring westerns and having just about all the Louis L'amours printed and despite me inheriting my grandfather's numerous boxes of non-L'amour westerns, I'll go on record and say that the number of westerns I have read up to now can still be counted on one hand. But here's the secret: good stories are just that--good stories. Yeah, they may take place in the 1880s. But that doesn't change the fundamental nature of the tales nor the fundamental nature of the characteristics of a good protagonist.
If you like westerns already, this anthology is a no-brainer. But if you've never given westerns a try, I urge these adventures of Cash Laramie and Gideon Miles to be a nice sampler. Who knows? You might start liking westerns so much that you might even go out and buy yourself a pair of boots. If you do, I know a good place here in Houston that'll give you a good deal.
Click icon for more
book review blogs