BookHound
Reviews and Recommendations by Mel Odom, Professional Writer

THE ROAD TO RECKONING by Robert Lautner

Robert Lautner The Road to Reckoning

I’m a sucker for coming-of-age in the Old West novels. I’ve read a few of them over the years. Many of the books in Louis L’Amour’s Sackett series and other novels he penned fill that vein. Then there’s True Grit and Joe Lansdale’s latest offering, The Thicket, to add to the pile.

Robert Lautner joins those ranks with his debut novel, The Road to Reckoning, which introduces us to shootist and Indiana ranger Henry Stands, an old gent with a quick temper and an even quicker gun hand.

The narrator of the story is Thomas Walker, an older man who recounts his misadventures at the age of twelve when his father was murdered right in front of his eyes. Lautner goes into detail about daily life and the career of a traveling salesman (Thomas’s father), and I really enjoyed that (because I’m a history major and stuff like that is in my wheelhouse), but pure Western readers might find the going a little slow, though they may not.

The villains are properly black-hearted, though I felt they could have used a little more development.

As for Henry Stands, I couldn’t help but picture Wilford Brimley. Brimley’s fierce mustache, his straight-ahead, no-holds-barred presentation of life during many of his roles, just rang a bell with me. When Stands stepped onto the stage in front of young Thomas, that’s who I saw, and that image didn’t strike a false note throughout the novel.

Interestingly enough, this “Western” novel never leaves the east side of the Mississippi River. It’s set in 1837 and the United States was in a turmoil. Lewis and Clark had explored the Louisiana Purchase and people were headed out that way to get new land and start building new futures. Industrialization had crept into everyone’s lives and there is a distinct transition from the old life to the new.

That industrialization figures into the plot significantly. Samuel Colt has invented the revolving pistol and Thomas’s dad has signed on to sell those weapons. A large chunk of the story is devoted to how the invention of the revolver is going to change the future of combat, the United States, and possibly the world. After seeing the Walker Colts in action, Thomas doesn’t believe that change is going to be a good thing.

There are a lot of adventures in this book, a lot of scenery to take in, and there’s a great shootout at the end of the book that is simply vivid and stirring. Lautner is still learning things as a writer, but he’s well on his way. I can’t wait to see what he delivers next.

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3 Responses to “THE ROAD TO RECKONING by Robert Lautner”

  1. I highly recommend Robert Lewis Taylor’s novels, especially The Travels of Jamie McPheeters and A Journey to Matecumbe if you haven’t read them. You’ll love ’em.

  2. I haven’t, Bill. I’ll pick ’em up!


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