Reviews and Recommendations by Mel Odom, Professional Writer

RIDE THE RED TRAIL by Lewis B. Patten

Lewis B. Patten Ride the Red Trail

When I was a kid growing up in southern Oklahoma, I devoured a lot of Westerns along with my science fiction books and pulp reprints. To me at that time, they were all adventures, and some of the science fiction wasn’t too far removed from the Westerns.

I read everything Louis L’Amour had out at the time, and a lot of other writers as well. Ray Hogan and Jonas Ward were a couple I enjoyed, and then there was Lewis B. Patten. His books were always thin, promising quick reads, and I picked them up and read them right along with the others.

Truthfully, I can’t remember much about Patten’s books now, but occasionally I see them at book events in the boxes of Westerns. I didn’t even know Amazon Encore had started publishing his stuff until last week. I looked over the selections and made a couple choices that I felt pretty certain I hadn’t read before.

Ride the Red Trail is a collection of three novellas that are all standalone adventures. Patten is an easy to read author, but his habit of jumping from one point of view to another without warning bothered me. When I was a kid, I probably never noticed such a thing, just went on turning pages to find out what was going to happen next.

The first novella, “Summer Kill” reads more like a novel and has a dozen characters that Patten flits through. In it, a family patriarch is murdered and his two sons, both of them estranged from the father as well as each other, are moved to figure out who killed him. There’s a lot of plotting by the bad guy, then two other bad guys who intend to take advantage of everything that’s going on, that requires a more attentive read. The two sons each have their own stories as well, and there’s more than a twist or two of coincidence to thoroughly stir the pot. The story plays out more like a family saga and doesn’t really have a central character.

“Ride the Red Trail” is a straightforward action piece that actually may be too straightforward. Once Lew Harvey steps off that train and finds out villains are intent on stealing his folks’ place, the action just doesn’t let up until hot lead scorches the air. The story has a lot of depth to it because there’s a lot of emotion that spills out of the back story.

My favorite character is Burt Norden, a young cowboy who’s trying to keep his family’s ranch together in “Rustler’s Run.” Burt’s only eighteen, his father is dead, and his mother has lost herself. Patten jumps around between characters in this one as well, moving the story along, but Burt’s story and his subsequent adventures as he discovers the truth behind the rustling that’s going on in the area keep the pages turning at a smart pace.

This book doesn’t offer anything special, no characters that are larger-than-life the way L’Amour’s Sacketts were, but it’s a great little book to settle in with for a couple hours of stead entertainment.

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