Sometimes a book comes along that just grabs you. That one for me lately was Hallowed Ground by Darrel Sparkman. This is a western about a tough marshal named Coble Bray. His character reminded me a lot of Gunsmoke’s Matt Dillon. Whenever a job was too hard, they telegraphed Coble because no one was better at tracking bad men.
In this story, someone is kidnapping, starving, then killing little girls and they have no time to waste in finding the killer. Darrel’s superb writing really pulls you in and plants you right there in the old west. You feel as though you’re riding this dark trail with Coble. And there’s some romance too so that made me a happy camper. In the TV westerns, I always hated when the cowboy rode away, alone and aching for someone to care, to love.
Here’s the back cover copy:
A lone man sits his horse atop a bluff near the southern Missouri border. There’s a story in the country ahead of him. A dark tale of murdered girls and a killer not caught, of an old friend asking for help, and a letter from a frightened young mother that has arrived too late to save her daughter. A letter that now rests in this man’s pocket….
Marshal Coble Bray isn’t subtle. He’s known as “The Deacon,’’ and when local lawmen come across murderers and thieves too tough or ruthless for them to handle, he’s the one they call. He’s got guts and brains and an itchy trigger finger, and he hunts men like others hunt wolves. But none of this will help him with the challenge he now faces.
Innocent young girls are being murdered in a ritualistic fashion. What evidence there is has turned out to be useless, and every trail turns into a dead end. Between an ambitious judge, a useless sheriff, and a gang of bloodthirsty vigilantes, the countryside is primed to explode. Dodging danger, hot lead, and the advances of two beautiful women, Coble pushes forward in his mission. He knows the murderer is near, but how do you find a killer who hides in plain sight?
There was one passage that stuck in my mind that tells you exactly the kind of person Coble Bray is. This is his answer to a woman’s question about how he lives with killing.
“I’ve always believed the mind is a room with many doors. Most of the doors you pass through all the time. Some of them you open once in a while to see what’s in there, and remember. A few of the doors…those you nail shut and you never open them. Not ever.” Coble stood abruptly, the legs of the chair scraping the floor beneath him. “And with that deep thought, I’d better get going. The rain’s stopped and I want to get to Big Springs before dark.”
* * *
If you’re looking for something a little different from the standard romance, maybe you’ll give this a try. The book is available in print and ebook. Here’s the Amazon link: http://a.co/iaoBS66
You can find out more on his website: http://www.darrelsparkman.com/
Darrel Sparkman also has a lot of good short stories on Rope and Wire. A word of warning…you’d better have some time. http://www.ropeandwire.com/western-short-stories-darrel-sparkman.html
My question: Why do you think TV westerns died out? They were hugely popular for so many years and then suddenly disappeared.