Monday, July 26, 2010

No Good Like It Is

No Good Like It Is
by McKendree R. Long III

(CreateSpace / 1-450-58078-5 / 978-1-450-58078-6 / April 2010 / 332 pages / $15.00 / B&N $10.80 / Kindle $4.99)

Reviewed by Celia Hayes for PODBRAM

No Good Like It Is is one of those narratives usually described as episodic, rambling and picaresque. The plot is the journey – and the point of the journey sometimes seems like an afterthought. If it were a motion picture, it would be that kind of Western wherein a pair of oddly assorted pals wanders through adventures involving the usual genre Western characters: Indians, bad-men, renegades, an assortment of women of rather elastic virtue, drunks, crooked sheriffs and former slaves.

The story of West Point officer Thomas “Dobey” Walls and his sidekick, enlisted soldier Jimmy Melton really seems to fall into three separate parts. The first is a prologue of how they meet and become acquainted during the late 1850s, when both are in the US Army, stationed on the wilds of the far frontier. It takes about ten chapters and seventy pages to establish their friendship and their characters – and since the whole meat of their adventure is their Civil War experience as part of the fabled cavalry unit, Terry’s Texas Rangers, and their journey home from the war, those first chapters seem a little like marking time, waiting for the real adventure to begin. Conversely, the Civil War portion of the book seems also a little rushed. Surely Terry’s Rangers had a great deal more going on during 1861-65, which would have given enough scope for a full set of wartime adventures and derring-do for the two of them?

Anyway, the real adventure begins when the two of them head home again, across the war-blasted South, with the eventual goal of finding Dobey Walls’ surviving family, who may or may not be still at an isolated trading post in the present-day Panhandle. Who knows if they are still alive, for what with the war and all, he hasn’t been in touch with them for years?

The historical research regarding things like military gear and uniforms is impeccable, if sometimes a little overly detailed, and including elements like the Confederate Cherokee characters is an excellent touch. The Civil War was extremely complicated – even in Indian Territory. I would wish for a little more of a sense of place, and landscape, since the journey of Walls and Melton takes place over a wide swath of the South and West. And what seems like an irrelevant development regarding a stolen payroll is a lead-in to a sequel – so, the rambling journey will continue, for sure.

See also: Celia's BNN Review
McKendree R. Long's Website

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