PUNISHED, BOOK 1: UNDEAD is the first book in a new series of semi-weird Westerns by popular author Jackson Lowry, who is actually a prolific author of science fiction, mysteries, and Westerns under a variety of other names. I say semi-weird because while are some supernatural elements, most of the book is fairly gritty and realistic.
Vincent Bayonne is a former plantation owner from Louisiana who lost everything in the aftermath of the Civil War. His mansion was burned down by the freed slaves who worked on the plantation, and his wife and children were herded off as prisoners by Union soldiers. The soldiers tried to lynch Bayonne as well, but he escaped to hunt for his family and seek revenge on those who destroyed his life. Branded a fugitive, he’s forced to flee and eventually winds up down and out in San Francisco, where he encounters an old enemy five years after the war and his fate takes an unexpected twist.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Lowry’s prose is smooth and professional, and the action never slows down for long. He takes on the difficult task of writing about a protagonist who’s rather unsympathetic most of the time and making the reader care about him anyway. That’s not easy to do. It’s not so much a matter of rooting for Vincent Bayonne as it is being compelled to find out what’s going to happen to him next. He’s pretty well knocked around by life, but by the end of the book, even though his circumstances are, shall we say, challenging, he’s making plans to fight back against what he considers an unfair destiny. I’m eager to see where Bayonne’s vengeance quest is going to take him next.