I’ve read and enjoyed a couple of good western novels this year, and I really enjoyed this one by Kyle Rader. There is something a little different with this novel to the others in that the main character Drake Travis is a hugely unlikable character. Armed with a bad attitude and his weapon, the brilliantly named ‘Devil’s Claw’, Travis goes on a bloody trail of revenge seeking a final confrontation with his old boss. The thing is, as the title suggests, Travis only has four bullets and he has to kill five people!
Now, there is nothing particularly new with this, but it’s a bloody tale and it features some truly despicable yet interesting characters. In fact, I’ll tell you now that the whole book is filled with treacherous murderers, hungry only for money and a way to make themselves more feared, and so if you’re looking for a book that features a heroic, womanizing lead akin to Butch Cassidy then you will be disappointed. However, if you want a Clint Eastwood, ‘Unforgiven’ style bad ass mixed with Emilio Estevez’ William H. Bonney from ‘Young Guns’ then you will be rewarded with a book that thunders along at a great pace, never letting up, slowly feeding you pieces of the story as it goes along. The slow feed of the story is one particular aspect of the book I really enjoyed, Rader doesn’t blow his load too soon by giving you all the details of the story at the start, in fact he does the opposite and develops things as Travis’ journey progresses by allowing the back story to fall gently into place.
One of the real highlights of this book is the dialogue, it’s smooth, often witty and pulls no punches when it needs to. The dialogue is presented with an authentic western style to it and works very well. The action scenes are excellent, often bloody and the supporting cast of characters (all suitably nasty) are well drawn out and original. I don’t think that you ever get to really like Travis, but there is something that just keeps you reading and rooting for him.
I’m a sucker for a good western and when its this bloody and dark, I’m really in. Great stuff, and most enjoyable.
Pick up a copy of ‘Four Bullets’ from here.