Thursday, June 20, 2019

Death in the Nations - Terry Alexander

I generally don’t mind when historical characters are used as the protagonists in fictional stories, as long as the author at least makes an attempt at staying fairly close to history. Deputy U.S. Marshal Bass Reeves, a black man who rode after outlaws in Indian Territory for Judge Isaac Parker in Fort Smith, has been featured in a number of stories and novels over the past few years. Reeves probably came to prominence in the world of fiction not only because he’s a pretty interesting character in his own right, plenty tough and capable of doing the hard, dangerous job of running down lawbreakers on the frontier, but because of some claims (since thoroughly debunked) that he was the inspiration for the creation of The Lone Ranger. (Yes, that’s a pet peeve of mine. It’s impossible to prove a negative, of course, but I’m completely convinced George W. Trendle and Fran Striker never heard of Bass Reeves.)

Anyway . . . For the past few years, the excellent New Pulp publisher Airship 27 has been putting out an annual anthology of Western novellas featuring Bass Reeves, written by top-notch authors such as Mel Odom, Derrick Ferguson, and Gary Phillips. One of Odom’s stories won the Peacemaker Award from Western Fictioneers for Best Short Fiction last year. As a Peacemaker submission this year, I read “Death in the Nations” by Terry Alexander, from BASS REEVES, FRONTIER MARSHAL, VOLUME 3. It finds Reeves heading into Indian Territory again, this time on the trail of a murderer. The father and brothers of the man who was killed are going to take the law into their own hands and go after the murderer themselves unless Bass can catch him and bring him back to Fort Smith first. Bass’s only lead is that the fugitive has a cousin who heads up an outlaw gang in the Nations, and that’s where he figures the man will head.

Naturally, things don’t go smoothly in Bass’s quest to capture the killer, and Alexander does a fine job of placing obstacle after obstacle in his path. There’s plenty of action, and I especially enjoyed the way Alexander has Bass use his brain to accomplish his goal as much as he uses his guns and fists. This is a good story, and I liked it enough that it prompted me to buy the latest volume so I can read the stories by Mel Odom and R.A. Jones, as well. There’s plenty of good Bass Reeves-based fiction out there. If you enjoy Western action yarns, you should give them a try.


Paul R. McNamee said...

I just listened to the first volume on audio and I really enjoyed it.

Ron Fortier said...

Ron Fortier here, publisher of Airship 27 Productions. Thanks so much, James for this wonderful review and your kind words regarding our Bass Reeves series. It is our hope to do one volume a year. And like you, I DETEST the whole stupid Lone Ranger flap.