Thursday, February 18, 2016
Backshot -- Ed Gorman
The title page of this novel reads Backshot: 1902, but the cover doesn't. Not that it matters. It's all the same book. However, there's some connection to Backshot: 2012 by Tom Piccirilli, which was released at the end of last year. I'm not sure what the connection is, other than that the last name of the marshal in Gorman's book is also the name of the protagonist in the Piccirilli book. I tried to check this out through Amazon, but each book has only one review -- and it's the same review, praising Gorman but not mentioning Piccirilli. Maybe Ed will read this and enlighten us.
On to the review. Declan Parnell is a feckless young man who works in a restaurant in a mining town and who's just gambled away all his money. He gets a loan to pay off an outstanding gambling debt, and he messes up. This loses him his only friend and makes him amenable to taking part in a robbery to be conducted by the owner of the restaurant where he works and the woman that Parnell thinks he's in love with. All Parnell has to do is to drop mickey into the drink of a judge. The other two will do the rest. Mean while a tough marshal named Royce is in town to investigate the corrupt sheriff. Royce is nobody's fool.
Parnell dopes the judge's drink, and that's when the twists begin and this plot summary ends. You know without my telling you that things do not go as planned.
Gorman's a master of this kind of story. People aren't what they seem, and Gorman can make even the worst of them seem almost human. There's a special kind of darkness that's revealed as the story goes along, and Gorman manages it well. The setting is winter, and the weather plays a part in the story. It's done so well that you might want to wrap up in your Snuggie while you read. Declan Parnell is the kind of guy who knows he's on the wrong track and wants to do the right thing. The question is whether he'll be able to do it and still avoid the consequences of his part in the crime. This book's the real thing, highly recommended.