Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Western Union - Paul Bedford

WESTERN UNION is another book submitted for the Peacemaker Awards. As I’m writing and scheduling this, I have no idea how it fared in the competition, but I liked it. It’s by Paul Bedford and was published as part of the Black Horse Westerns line in England.

Ransom Thatcher is a young man who works for Western Union in 1861, when the company is trying to complete a transcontinental telegraph line at the same time as the Civil War breaks out. Thatcher is teamed with a tough, laconic former Texas Ranger named Kirby and assigned to find out who is responsible for tearing down the part of the telegraph line that’s already been completed in Nebraska. At the same time, a wagon train full of immigrants who want to avoid the bloody conflict back east sets out from Omaha, headed for the Pacific Northwest. The fate of these settlers will wind up entwined with the mission Thatcher and Kirby have to complete.

Paul Bedford spins this yarn with quite a bit of skill, juggling several different plotlines and sets of characters and bringing them together in ways both expected and unexpected. There’s plenty of action as well. One of the challenges for any British writer of Westerns is to sound authentic, and Bedford does a pretty good job of that. There are a few words and turns of phrase that don’t ring true, but probably less than would crop up if I were to attempt to write a book set in England.

WESTERN UNION is the first novel by Paul Bedford that I’ve read, and I enjoyed it enough that I’m glad I have several more by him on hand. I’ll be reading them, too.


Anonymous said...

Does Vigo Mortenson know his face was used for this cover? I'm not trying to be a troll. I genuinely wonder because if he didn't give his permission I could see a lawsuit coming at the publisher.

James Reasoner said...

Thinly disguised versions of famous actors are pretty common on Western covers from the past ten or fifteen years. I must've seen dozens of them. I remember seeing Buck Jones, Roy Rogers, and Lee Marvin on covers of various Longarms I wrote. I don't know anything about the legality of it, but it seems to be an accepted practice.

Chap O'Keefe said...

A great cover, but to anyone who has experienced something of the financials behind the Black Horse Western series, the idea of a lawsuit arising from it seems laughable. The book probably had a print-run in the low hundreds and its total earnings might amount in money terms to less than what Vigo Mortenson could earn in a day. What would be the point of legal action that would likely bankrupt the publisher?

James Reasoner said...

My impression is that Black Horse has better distribution since the company changed hands a few years ago, and e-book editions of most if not all of the new books are readily available, but yes, they're still a very small business.