|Lee Hoffman & fellow writer Wilson Tucker, 1950s|
"Brade," she said slowly.
Even given that Hoffman is writing of Missourians and is herself from the deep South, there are only so many ways one syllable can be slowed down, as opposed to spoken with apparent hesitation or reluctance. Brade is our protagonist, a former "bushwhacker" in Missouri and more bloodily in Kansas during the Civil War, one of Quantrill's Raiders, who finds himself chafing at the restrictions he and other Secesh veterans and sympathizers are facing in the postwar, somewhat carpetbagged state. Not long after returning to his small farm, only to find the buildings torched and a noose left hanging in further threat from a tree in the yard, Caudell Bradenton finds himself joining up with a small unit of fellow former Confederates to rob banks in hopes of funding some bribery and campaigns to dislodge the anti-Rebel politicians in the state legislature and at least one of their US Senate seats, and more to the point lift the restrictions on anyone who held any Southern sentiments in the past war. He also discovers that his neighbors' daughter, formerly a child he'd watched out for some in his young adulthood, being nearly twenty years older than she, is approaching legal majority and has her mind set on settling with him. And thus begin his problems, and what turns out to be not only a hardboiled western, somewhat moreso than most of Hoffman's, but also an actual mystery in structure, with questions of purpose and identity held till the closing pages. Also, a formal duel in a western context that might remind one of The Big Country, only with less convenient breakdown of Good Man vs. Bad Man; odd how much of the novel reminded me of, of all things, Ron Scheer's choice of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn for his book this week...some subset of what's dealt with in that landmark is echoed here...though not as profoundly, disappointingly light on the resonance for a Hoffman novel. Though she does slip in no little of her knowledge of the folk music of that era, and even more authentic-reading passages on firearms (and I wonder if the character in the novel named Goforth is a "Tuckerization" of infrequent writer Laura Goforth)...her attention to equine detail also seems more than solid, as Hoffman had famously withdrawn from active fannish/faanish activity in the sf community, at least for a while, by "walking around a horse" and growing very thoroughly involved in equestrian matters (later, she would briefly be on the edge of professionalism in auto racing at about the same time, though not the same place, my parents were, in the early '60s).
|Lee Hoffman, 1988|
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