Louis L'Amour,
The Man from Skibbereen
(Bantam, 1973)

Crispin Mayo is fresh out of Ireland and heading west on the railroad for work when he makes the mistake of dozing by the tracks in Wyoming and getting left behind. When he wakes, he finds himself in the midst of a war -- not for land or cattle, but for the life of a Union officer who, mistaken for General Sherman, has fallen into the hands of a gang of Confederate sympathizers out to avenge the war.

Unlike most of Louis L'Amour's heroes, Mayo isn't an experienced gunman; in fact, he only carries a gun by chance, and he's lucky if he can hit what he aims at. He doesn't have a lot of experience with horses or tracking, buffalo or Indians, but he's resourceful nonetheless. And he's not one to turn away when a man -- or that man's pretty daughter -- needs help against a band of murderous ruffians.

This story rings false on occasion, mostly when Mayo proves far more adept with guns and surviving the Wyoming wilderness than makes sense, given his background. Sure, he might have poached with the best of them back in old Ireland, but that doesn't set him up to match guns with a desperate gang of hardened war veterans.

But it's a fun romp nonetheless, particularly when Mayo relies on his strengths -- fists, not guns. The man's a brawler, and L'Amour sets him up for a hell of a fight.

book review by
Tom Knapp

20 May 2017

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