by Elmer Kelton
: As gratifying as a McMurtry side plot and with more gritty excitement than just about any Hollywood cowboy flick, this outing highlights the post-Civil War limbo suffered by the Texas Rangers. Andy Pickard, a 10-year-old half-wild captive of the Comanches, is forced from the tribe for killing a bully and is rescued by former Texas Ranger Rusty Shannon, who "adopts" Andy when his only relative refuses to take him in. The Rangers, formed before the Civil War, were exempt from service; they were scorned by the men who chose the Confederate cause and distrusted by the corrupt carpetbag Union government that disbanded them. Working hard, and with the help of a small network of friends, Rusty has made a go of his hardscrabble ranch in an area ravaged by carpetbagger greed, corrupt Unionist state police, war-born malice and poverty, and fierce, frequent Indian raids. Rusty's unstable life with Andy teeters on the brink of collapse when his old nemeses, the Oldham Brothers, local thugs in league with a corrupt judge, steal his ranch and burn out a freed slave, Shanty, a friend under Rusty and Andy's protection. Events reach dynamite levels when the Comanches kidnap the son of Rusty's old love, and teenage Andy must try for a rescue when Rusty is wounded and out of action. Kelton covers a wide swath of history with aplomb, illuminating a little-known period in Western history. California is still Mexican, Indians are a real threat and outlaws rule the land in this rough-riding adventure tale. Author tour. (Dec.)Forecast: After 37 novels, Kelton's third entry (after Badger Boy) in the Texas Rangers series could cross genre lines and expand his already substantial fan base.
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