Louis L'Amour,
(Bantam, 1963)

In Louis L'Amour's western world, gamblers tend to be the shifty, snake-eyed wastrels who get their comeuppance at the hands of the hero.

In Fallon, our protagonist is the gambler, and you don't feel much sympathy for him at the start, as he's led away to be the central figure in a public hanging.

But Macon Fallon has layers to his character. He escapes the hanging (obviously, or it would be a very short book) and flees into the Nevada desert. He meets a stranded party there and launches an elaborate scam, bringing new life to a nearby ghost town in order to make enough money to stake his new start in San Francisco.

But along the way, Fallon starts to care about the town. And the people, too, even though he plans to fleece them.

Fallon grows along with the town of Red Horse, making something from nothing and, in the process, making friends. He also must deal with various antagonists, from a roving war party of Utes to a ruthless gang that operates nearby.

One of the young men of the town, shiftless but not evil, learns a hard lesson about carrying a gun. A wandering gambler gets a taste of his own medicine, and a thick-armed brawler discovers that smaller men aren't always easy marks.

Fallon also has one of the best conclusions of any L'Amour book I've read. Poor Macon doesn't know what hit him.

book review by
Tom Knapp

2 July 2016

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