Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Outlaw and the Lady - Chap O'Keefe (Keith Chapman)

THE OUTLAW AND THE LADY by Chap O'Keefe (really our friend Keith Chapman) was published originally by Robert Hale in 1994 as part of Hale's Black Horse Western line. It's newly available as an e-book, though, and I think it's great that some of these older books are being republished. In this case, THE OUTLAW AND THE LADY is certainly deserving of finding a whole new audience of Western readers.

The protagonist of this novel is Tod Larraby, a former Confederate guerrilla who rode with Quantrill until he got sick of the violence and bloodshed. Although he tried to go straight after the war, he was charged unfairly with crimes he didn't commit and has spent nearly twenty years on the dodge, growing wearier all the time. Because of his status as an outlaw, he has to take whatever jobs he can, so when he's blackmailed by a corrupt lawman into helping an English nobleman find his missing son, Larraby is forced to shoulder this dangerous chore. It's made even more hazardous by the fact that the Englishman insists on coming along on the quest and bringing his beautiful young wife with him.

Chapman's work continues to remind me of the hardboiled Westerns published by Gold Medal during the Fifties and Sixties, and this one also has echoes of the early Lassiter novels by "Jack Slade" (really W.T. Ballard, Ben Haas, and Peter Germano, among others). The plot moves along at a suitably brisk pace, and the action scenes have a nice gritty feel to them. Larraby is a good hero, too, world-weary but not so full of angst that it leads to an excess of navel-gazing. As always, Chapman includes some effective twists and complications in the plot.

THE OUTLAW AND THE LADY is lean, fast, and very entertaining, and as usual when I finish a Chap O'Keefe book, I'm eager to read more. If you're a Western fan I think you'll enjoy it, too.

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