SONGBIRD by Colby Jackson (Bill Crider)
As part of the writing team for Rancho Diablo, I’ve made it a point to not post reviews of the books my fellow writers have written. Thought I would just stay conveniently out of the way and let readers find the books on their own – which they’ve been doing quite nicely, thank you.
However, now that we’re three years and counting into the series, I’m going to start voicing my thoughts on the books – only because my fellow writers deserve to have everyone beating the drum for their efforts.
Bill Crider’s newest addition to the stable of books we’ve corralled (see what I did there!) is absolutely one of the finest I’ve read. Bill sent the manuscript to me for review before he published it, as we do, if for no reason than to have others to share the blame when and if we miss something. Usually more on the when side, but we do our best to tell good stories.
I’d intended only to get a feel for the story, maybe read four or five chapters before turning in for the night. Instead, I got swept away by the storytelling. I’ve read Bill’s Truman Smith and Sheriff Dan Rhodes books enough to know I ought not think that way. Instead, I was nailed to the pages, following interesting characters wending their way through the dusty streets of a town I helped create, feeling like I was seeing the place again for the first time. Kinda like déjà vu all over again.
I don’t know what’s happened to our series because the last book I wrote had a meandering point of view that clicked in and out of the various people living in Shooter’s Cross, as well as those just passing through and others destined to die there. Bill evidently picked up on it too, because he takes readers through our usual cast of characters, pings on a couple of new ones (Songbird and Ying), then cuts down the back alley to show us the bumbling efforts of what has to be the worst group of outlaws this side of the Apple Dumpling Gang.
I was mesmerized by the story because even though Bill and I had talked about it before he wrote it, I still couldn’t tell for sure what was going to happen – or who it was going to happen to. I couldn’t stop turning pages, and I couldn’t stop laughing out loud as the shenanigans Bill churned the characters through. Who knew that our ferryman, Eustace Kendall, had such a funny turn? Well, obviously Bill did, because right there it is in those pages.
I love working on this series, and I love working with Bill Crider and James Reasoner. I love the fact that even when you think you know something, the guys you think you know it with can turn things on their ear – and still not upset the applecart.
Shooter’s Cross and the Blaylock family are a great bit of place and history that I’m part of, and the fact that the three of us as writers can step in and muddy up the town and still leave elbow room for everybody just amazes me. I don’t know if it’s because that little town is so big, or because we’re just that good.
What I do know is that I enjoy every trip to Shooter’s Cross and Rancho Diablo, whether I laid down the tracks or I’m following those made by my compadres. Hope you readers feel the same way.