“His Ragged Company”

By Rance D. Denton

A “Weird West” story — historical fantasy

This book was such a fun surprise — engaging characters, an action-packed plot, and a narrative voice that hooked me from the start. It’s such a gem to discover all that in a first-time novelist.

This is an Old West story with a modern sense of humor, in much the same vein of one of my favorite shows, Firefly. You could hear the hero, Marshal Faust, talking to you in every line, with a dash of his own character flavoring every description.

I laughed out loud every few pages. I could have pulled a great quote from about any page, but not without dropping spoilers, so I’ll give you a teaser with these lines of description instead:

“Whoever imagined this was the place to build a town up from nothing, right here in the midst of the Texas drylands, must have been drunk. Or worse. … (The dream) had fizzled up, farted out, and what we had left was dirt, sweat, and sand.”

“If you ever stand still and let a train pass you, there’s this split-second after it passes where the wind cracks, the world bends, and everything’s quiet. Like it’s sucked the life out of everything and you realize a true power — a thing that could kill you without flinching or caring — just passed by and let you live.”

If Andy Griffith had ever encountered a supernatural spirit and started cussing it out, it would fall pretty close to the tone of this book.

The supporting characters were as fully fleshed-out as Faust. I particularly enjoyed his trusty sidekick, though naming him would be a spoiler. I’m always impressed by strong female characters, so I cheered for Miss Eliza Fulton, the farm wife who had plenty of mettle disguised behind soft words and petticoats. My favorite character by far, Miss Lachrime Garland, the local madam, had enough guts, brains, and bullets in her derringer to star in a novel of her own.

The plot itself kept me guessing. Toward the middle, it started to feel episodic, with the sheriff going from town event to town event and meeting new characters. By the end, though, all the various story threads were wrapped up neatly, and in a way that made every plot twist cohesive to the overall story.

Buy this book. Laugh until your sides hurt. Then join me in pre-ordering the sequel.

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