Sunday, April 03, 2011

Reviewing: "Texas Standoff: A Novel of the Texas Rangers" by Elmer Kelton

“There's nothin’ like local politics to cause a fight. If I had my way, I'd put all the politicians on a boat at Galveston, sail it out into the Gulf, and sink it.”(Page.42)

A sentiment that reverberates today as it did in the 1800s in this recent release by celebrated novelist Elmer Kelton. The world lost quite a literary figure with his death in 2009. This book is the ninth and final installment of the Texas Ranger series.

Newly married Texas Ranger Andy Pickard is thinking that it is about time to leave the Rangers and settle down. The bean counters are getting worse down in Austin, his wife Bethel is urging him to quit and making it hard for him to leave when he has to, and this latest mission is not worthy of his talents. Morning than anything, Ranger Andy Pickard is tired of all the nonsense and has a small patch of land on the nearby Guadalupe river near Kerrville waiting for him.

Instead of going after somebody who matters, he is being sent after a lowly thief by the name of Japer Biggs. Seems like Sergeant Ryker wants this particular chicken thief in jail as the local area is in turmoil and things could get worse the longer he is allowed to run free. But, the guy is a chicken thief and that sort of thing does not rank very high on Pickard’s dangerous criminal list. If that is not bad enough, the sergeant is sending Logan Daggett with him. Pickard knows Daggett by reputation only and that reputation is not a good one. Not only would he rather work alone, Pickard also has to defer to the older Ranger which bugs him quite a bit from the start.

Pickard and Daggett leave the company tent area on the San Saba River near Fort McKavett and head to Junction, Texas on the Llano River in Central Texas. Daggett’s tracking skills come in handy but his people skills leave a lot to be desired making him a source of constant conflict with nearly everyone. Not only do the two Texas Rangers find their chicken thief, hey also find a lot more trouble with some of it their own making.  A blood feud between the patriarchs of the McIntosh and Teal families, the desire by some to start fencing the range land and the ominous presence of the “regulators” are just some of the issues that Pickard and Daggett, who rarely see eye to eye, must confront in this fast moving 248 page novel.

“Andy argued, ‘a man is supposed to be considered innocent till he's proven guilty.’
Daggett grunted. ‘What idiot said that? Everybody's guilty of something.” (Page 241)

In this novel, they usually are. Elmer Kelton once again brings the old west alive for readers in terms of characters and settings. These people exist beyond the page to take shape in the mind’s eye. With a bit of romance, lots of mystery, and plenty of action, this is another example of why Elmer Kelton was so good.

Texas Standoff: A Novel Of The Texas Rangers
Elmer Kelton
Tom Doherty Associates, LLC (Forge)
September 2010
ISBN# 978-0-7653-2579-2
284 Pages

Material supplied by the good folks of the Plano, Texas Public Library System.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2011

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