Monday, June 01, 2009

Brimstone


Score another one for Mr. Parker. Brimstone is the third book in the trilogy that began with Appaloosa, one of my favorite of Parker's books. (Appaloosa was recently made into a movie which followed Parker's novel almost word for word.) Brimstone picks up shortly after the events of the second book, Resolution. "Town Tamers" Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch are riding southwards through Texas, looking for Allie French, the girl who broke Cole's heart. The otherwise emotionally impervious Cole can't seem to stop loving Allie, even though she cheated on him numerous times. After things went wrong in Appaloosa, Allie left town and Cole hasn't seen her since.
When Cole and Hitch find Allie she is now a fallen woman and has fallen just about as far as one can fall, working in a filthy, riverside brothel in a town barely worthy of the title. Cole and Hitch rescue her after a violent confrontation with the brothel owner and his men and the three travel to the town of Brimstone where the real plot begins.
Brimstone is a boomtown, fueled by the cattle industry. A real town, as Hitch calls it, with folks with regular jobs, and women and children strolling the streets. The town has a large number of saloons and these have become the target of a religious zealot called Brother Percival, who plans to shut them all down. Opposing Percival is a salon owner named Pike, a former outlaw who has made good. The conflict between these two men becomes Cole and Hitch's problem after they sign on as deputy sheriffs in Brimstone. There's also a sub plot about a mysterious Indian who's apparently got a grudge against someone in Brimstone.
I thought Brimstone not quite as good as Appaloosa but better than Resolution. It's more of a real Western, with fewer anachronisms. At times Resolution read like one of Parker's crime novels with Cole and Hitch acting like Spencer and Hawk in Stetsons. There's still an element of this in Brimstone. Sometimes the dialog seems a bit too contemporary, but for the most part it rings true.
I mentioned to my pal Nav that reading a Western was a different experience for me now that I have actually been out west. Beforehand I was imagining things based mostly on Western movies. Having traveled to Santa Fe last year, I can now draw upon my own experience when Parker is describing landscapes, climate, and such. I've walked in an arroyo and I've crossed the Rio Grande. Makes for a much more visceral experience.
Anyway, I enjoyed Brimstone quite a bit, racing through it in two sittings. Parker is calling the three books a trilogy and he gives Brimstone an ending that could be the end of the series, but I hope he plans to visit with Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch again. They're stand-up guys.

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