BULLET FOR A VIRGIN! by Peter Brandvold
Peter Brandvold, also known as Frank Leslie, writes a lot of Westerns, and now he’s dipped his pen into the self-publishing biz with a vengeance. Bullet for a Virgin is his first Rio Concho Kid story, and the author has promised it won’t be his last. In fact, on the last page of this novella, he states emphatically that the hero will return.
The cover art first drew my eye to this one, then I realized it was a Brandvold story and that pretty much sold me. It’s a novella, something around 15,000 words, and makes for a good one-sitting or two-sitting read. I really don’t think most readers will get up again without finishing it (unless they’re called back to work or have to go do something that will take them away from the story).
The tale of Tomasina de la Cruz’s escape from the Mexican general she’s been forced to marry is an exciting one, and the pacing never lets up. The Rio Concho Kid seems cut from the same cloth as the pulp Western heroes of days gone by, larger-than-life, a true hero, and I wouldn’t have been surprised at all if he’d donned a mask. The loss of his one true love set him on a path that wouldn’t have flown back in the heyday of pulps, though, and in that we glimpse the Western as it is today.
Brandvold acknowledges the influences of all these Western styles on his blog, and Clint Eastwood fans will know the author is a kindred spirit when they see the set-up of the final showdown between The Rio Concho Kid and the vicious and leprous bountyhunter known as El Leproso, who wears a sackcloth bag over his head to conceal his horrible features.
I really enjoyed El Leproso as much as I did the Rio Concho Kid, and I hope that this isn’t the last we’ve seen of him because he’s a great old school villain. However, the last scene pretty much guarantees that won’t happen. But this series is sourced by the old pulps, and in those days editors found ways to resurrect dead characters. I’m betting Brandvold could come up with a couple ways too.
Bullet for a Virgin was a great, rip-roaring read that I blazed through in a single sitting. Complete with short chapters with individual titles and an emphasis on gun-blazing action and an almost supernatural background, the novella harkens back to the old while delivering a white-knuckled read for modern readers.