Monday, February 25, 2019

Man Outgunned

My father recently gave me a copy of Lewis B. Patten's “Death Rides a Black Horse”. It was my first foray into the Patten brand of western fiction. I absolutely loved the novel and reviewed it here. Running with that excitement, it was just a matter of time before I could get my hands on another of Patten's work – 1976's Signet paperback “Man Outgunned”.

The novel begins during a Fourth of July town picnic in Placita, Colorado. With it's citizens happily preparing fireworks and baked goods by a river, six escaped prisoners arrive to find the local bank barely staffed. In a gut-wrenching display, the prisoners shotgun the bankers (decapitating one) and unmercifully kill an elderly, pleading couple in the streets. During an extremely poor choice of timing, 16-year old Sally Dickerson returns to town for some cooking supplies and is kidnapped by the six outlaws.

Sheriff Morgan McGuire and his deputy Donovan soon learn about the murders and robbery and form a makeshift posse to run the outlaws to ground. Unfortunately, the outlaws are a half-day away and the posse isn't fit for a long, hard ride. With Sally's grieving father in tow, the group gallops their horses to death and lose ground finding new rides. It's here that the narrative really settles in as only McGuire and Donovan are left to run the outlaws down. I won't share an important spoiler here regarding Sally Dickerson...but this is a western and these are six hardened criminals with a 16-yr old girl. Patten doesn't hold back punches. 

In a cruel twist of fate the story loses Donovan and McGuire is left as the “Man Outgunned” against the murderers. There's a couple of really good side-stories that develop regarding a Mexican sheriff, an orphaned boy and a grieving widow. Patten threads these elements into the novel's road trip, focusing on McGuire's date with destiny while attempting to build even the weakest of alliances to fight the overwhelming odds.

If you love westerns, this is a mandatory read. Patten is absolutely a master of the craft and one of the better writers of any genre. “Man Outgunned” is one of the best books I've read in 2018 (this review being published a few months later) and another fine entry in what has become a treasured author. Buy everything the man has written. It's worth every cent.

Buy a copy of the book HERE

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