The Shopkeeper - A Steve Dancy Tale
by James D. Best
Published December 2007
In 1879, Steve Dancy sells his New York shop and ventures west to explore and write a journal about his adventures. Though he's not looking for trouble, Dancy's infatuation with another man's wife soon embroils him in a deadly feud with Sean Washburn, a Nevada silver baron.
Infuriated by the outrages of two hired thugs, the shopkeeper kills both men in an impulsive street fight. Dancy believes this barbarian act has closed the episode. He is wrong. He has interfered with Washburn's ambitions, and this is something the mining tycoon will not allow.
Pinkertons, hired assassins, and aggrieved bystanders escalate the feud until it pulls in all the moneyed interests and power brokers in Nevada. Can the former city slicker settle accounts without losing his life in the process?
One could never call me an expert of the Western genre, but I did grow up with a Grandpa who loved Spaghetti Westerns and read Louis L'Amour. And now I find myself living in Nevada, searching for an enormous wooden wagon wheel to use as art in my living room, and reading books like The Shopkeeper. Go figure.
But The Shopkeeper is a page turner and James Best is a great story teller. It's also evident that he has done his homework. Best captures the harsh landscape of Nevada in the late 1800s and the brutality of the American West. The characters are well developed but, as this appears to be the first in a series of Steve Dancy books, I expect that they will become even more flushed out as the series continues. I especially loved the brash female characters and hope that old Mrs. Bolton rears her ugly head in his next book, Leadville. I always fall for the villain and she is stupendously malevolent. The protagonist, Steve Dancy, isn't so much of a hero as he is an anti-hero. Wealthy, intelligent, self-enterprising and murderous. These characteristics shift as the plot thickens and as Dancy matches wits, trades bullets and tries to stay alive long enough to end his feud with the silver baron who wants him dead.
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