Friday, March 27, 2015

Forgotten Books: When the Devil Came to Endless - Charles Boeckman

I've become a big fan of Charles Boeckman's Western pulp stories over the past couple of years, but WHEN THE DEVIL CAME TO ENDLESS is the first Western novel of his that I've read. Published by Avalon in 1996, it came out long after the pulp era was over, but it shows that Boeckman had lost none of his top-notch storytelling ability.

Endless is a small town in West Texas, and as the book opens, a huge, deadly tornado is bearing down on it. The twister strikes with incredible force, devastating the town and leaving death and destruction in its wake.

Then, Boeckman spends the first half of the book using flashbacks to give us the stories of several people affected by the tornado: the young man convicted of a murder he didn't commit; the preacher's daughter who's in love with him; the preacher facing the greatest test of his faith he's ever known; the scheming banker; the firebrand newspaper editor, and several other citizens of Endless. Boeckman skillfully makes all of these into well-rounded characters instead of the stereotypes they might have been. They all have plenty of problems before the tornado strikes, but things are going to get worse, because just as the town is starting to clean up after the storm, a mysterious stranger rides in and brings even more danger...

WHEN THE DEVIL CAME TO ENDLESS is a really well-paced book that kept me turning the pages all the way to its very satisfying conclusion. In addition to being a fine traditional Western novel, it's also a fairly clued murder mystery, and Boeckman handles both elements well. The setting also rings true, as anyone who's spent some time in West Texas will know.

I believe Amazon bought Avalon's inventory a while back, but this one doesn't seem to be in print. Used copies are available on-line, though. It's excellent work from a top professional and gets a high recommendation from me.

No comments: