Thursday, November 12, 2009

Book Review: The Cold Dish

A few times a year, I find myself in Dallas for some reason or another. Leaving fever sets in simultaneously with my arrival. Same goes for San Antonio or Austin. Heck, if the town I live in gets much bigger I'm leaving. So while Lucas Davenport or Spenser are entertaining, Minneapolis and Boston just aren't very easy for me to identify with. On top of that, it gets a little tiring reading about how great the handsome hero is, with all the problems he has beating beautiful women back with a stick. I tried reading James Lee Burke's Billy Bob Holland novels, set in Texas, but grew frustrated with his floating town that was only an hour's drive from any place else in the state and a hero who wouldn't shoot the bastard, no matter how much he needed shooting. The books were readable, but only if you overlook the cartoonish portrayal of my state(I couldn't).

So I picked up Craig Johnson's The Cold Dish ready for more of the same. I was wrong though. Both Sheriff Walt Longmire and Absaroka County, Wyoming were easy to identify with. Walt is not handsome, drives a three quarter ton pick up, and lives in conditions that are less than spotless. Ok Craig, I'm with you so far. I've only been to Wyoming once, but the book's depiction gets the approval of this non-resident. Probably because Johnson lives there (not that that helped Burke). Authentic and likable location? Check. Identifiable protagonist? Check.

Something to make me pick the book up, out of all the others in the store, and buy it? Check. Right there on the cover, there's a man in a sheepskin coat holding a Sharps. Read the back cover, and right there in black and white, "Or will the only thing that stands between them and a Sharps .45-70 buffalo rifle be Sheriff Walt Longmire?" That's right, this book has the coolest buffalo gun action since Quigley Down Under. Not to ruin things, but there are actually two, count 'em two 45-70's involved in the showdown.

I give it four hundred grains, out of a possible four-fifty.

UPDATE: I realize that one of Burke's novels included a Sharps, but it still wasn't as good as The Cold Dish. One of these days I'll read his New Orleans novels. The man can write some dialogue, and I think I'd like it if I wasn't culturally offended.

Also, Sandford's Virgil Flowers novels, the ones that don't take place mostly in Minneapolis, are top notch stuff.

1 comment:

  1. i know exactly what you mean being offended by burke's depiction of texas. having enjoyed many of his n o books, i almost puked when reading a "texas" one.
    i commented to my wife that his town could not be that close to houston, austin and dallas.
    HE SHRUNK MY STATE! el paso must be right around the corner.