(This is the March 2016 edition of Barrie Summy's Book Review Club. For the complete list of other books this month, click on the icon following this review.)A few weeks ago, I found myself at my local Half Price Books. By the way, do you have good and bad it is to have a Half Price Books location within biking distance? Anyway, the Men's Adventure section and the Westerns overlap. I check the men's adventure section looking for Bantam editions of Doc Savage. Up there on the top row were a smattering of Robert J. Randisi novels. Now, I know the name. Who doesn't? When you have written over 650 books (not a typo), you are pretty well known. But I had never read anything by Randisi. So, I picked up BOUNTY ON A BARON and took it home.
The main character is a bounty hunter named Decker. Based on the back cover, he was falsely accused of murder and had reached death's door with a hangman's noose around his neck. He was spared the death penalty, but kept the noose as a reminder of his second chance at life. In fact, the noose, casually looped around his saddle, is his calling card. Now, he rides for himself and the bounty money he earns.
The Baron is the name given to a recent Russian immigrant. A professional killer. He took the name Brand, but his reputation takes the Baron.
As you can imagine, this story is a tale of the hunter and his prey. Decker talks to an old friend who has a line on where the Baron might be holed up. Decker makes his way to Wyoming and picks up the trail--and a sub-plot involving a logging community and the recent death of their leader.
The story moves along pretty much as you'd expect for a western of this stripe. That being said, I really enjoyed this book. Decker as a character is intriguing, with just the right amount of honor and hard-edged realism. Sure, he'll shoot you, but only after he's exhausted all other possibilities. The Baron comes off as a killer, yes, but one who actually has some honor to him as well, despite his job.
"Lean" is the term used to describe many westerns, be they Louis L'amour, Luke Short, or Robert Randisi. I appreciate story told in a straight-forward fashion with little fat. It makes for an easy read. Having said that, I wouldn't have minded just a tad more fat. For example, there's a scene where Decker asks a woman a few questions. She's never described other than "the woman." Now, as a reader, I filled in the blanks--and I'm fine with that--but it surprised me a little. Perhaps I just have to read more westerns, a task I've given myself for 2016.
You want to know how much I enjoyed BOUNTY ON A BARON? The day after I finished it, I went back to Half Price Books and picked up two more Decker novels. Turns out there are six novels total in the series. I have a feeling I'll be reading them all in short order.
P.S., since this is a western, I'll go ahead and wish y'all a happy Texas Independence Day!
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