REDEMPTION, KANSAS by James Reasoner
Redemption, Kansas is one of the more human Westerns I’ve read of later. Author James Reasoner invests time and emotion in his characters in this book that pays off for the reader. This is one of those books that could be effortlessly translated into a movie.
The main character, Bill Harvey, is a young Texas cowboy on his way to Dodge City with a herd of cows. Unfortunately, he gets injured during an attempted cattle rustling and ends up in the small town of Redemption, Kansas, a place that has outlawed Texans and cow herds. While he’s there, Bill is cared for by Eden Monroe, the daughter of a local shop owner.
As it turns out, Redemption has more than its share of problems. Its marshal, Frank Porter, and his deputy, Zach Norris, started out as local heroes but have now become the town’s biggest threats. They’ve been charging “protection” money for all the businesses, bankrupting some and killing proprietors that won’t pay up.
Bill’s story is a simple one, and that’s where Reasoner really sings. Even though the readers know everything that’s happening, it’s Bill’s eventual understanding of how things are and his decision to stand up for Eden and her father that really make this story a great Western. Western tales are generally about good men standing up to face evil, average men who refuse to give in to what can be overwhelming odds.
Reasoner’s young hero isn’t a shootist, hasn’t even killed before, and he finds himself going up against men who don’t think twice about murdering someone. His fear, and his decision to act in spite of that fear, are well done. The book is a coming of age tale after a fashion, and I enjoyed that facet.
I also liked the author’s depiction of the outlaws. Readers don’t learn enough about them, but they understand them well enough.
And I liked Redemption the town a lot as well. I could easily envision the scenes, the streets, and the characters that live there. Since this is the first book in a series, I’m looking forward to getting to know more about them as the stories go along.