Fabulous Fiction Firsts #651


Fabulous Fiction Firsts #651

Marin County, across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco, is one of the swankiest locales in the United States. Yet it is there that this gem of a contemporary western The Last Cowboys of San Geronimo * by Ian Stansel is set.

Brothers Frank and Silas Van Loys, the best horse trainers in San Geronimo and former partners in the ranching business, have been feuding for years: drunken brawls, nasty pranks, poisoning each other's livestock, and they are not above shooting each other, often for nothing more than a Stetson hat.

The novel opens with Silas fleeing on horseback after killing his brother. Hot on his trail is Frank's wife, Lena, to carry out her own brand of frontier justice. At her side is Rain, Lena and Frank's loyal stable assistant there to keep Lena company. As the three head into the wild and rugged Northern Californian coastal country, Stansel gradually builds on their back stories through flashbacks, foreshadowing a revelation and conclusion both shocking and inevitable.

Stansel has written a captivating novel, elegantly spare in language but big in purpose. It is a moving exploration of the complicated and fateful bonds of brotherhood. For fans of Kent Haruf, Larry McMurtry, Molly Gloss, and Smith Henderson.

* = Starred review

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