Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Stillman's War - Peter Brandvold

One of Peter Brandvold's best-known characters, Ben Stillman, returns in the new novel STILLMAN'S WAR. It seems hard to believe that it's been more than a decade since there was a new yarn about the Montana lawman. But Stillman is still as rugged and stalwart a hero as ever.

This one opens with Stillman and his deputy Leon McMannigle closing in on a gang of rustlers. Through a tragic twist, the daughter of a powerful rancher winds up dead, and her father declares war on the two lawmen, sending his sons and hired guns to kill them. Stillman and McMannigle are separated for much of the novel, and there are dangerous twists going on back in the town of Clantick, as well, that lead up to an unexpected but satisfying climax.

The action hardly ever lets up in this novel, and even when the bullets aren't flying, Brandvold maintains a high level of suspense. He's a master at piling troubles on his heroes until the reader wonders how they can ever get out of it. He's also one of the best in the business at creating an atmosphere of vivid, gritty realism.

I really enjoyed STILLMAN'S WAR. All of Brandvold's work reminds me of the sort of hardboiled Westerns that Gold Medal published in the Fifties and Sixties. His books are more graphic when it comes to sex, violence, and language, but they have the same tough sensibility and hard-charging plots and action. STILLMAN'S WAR is a great example of fine all-around storytelling. Highly recommended.

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