A Story of the West by Susan Spence
Paperback: 328 pages
Publisher: iUniverse.com (June 8, 2009)
Matt Daly’s eyes narrowed as he faced the stranger in front of him. “I know I don’t have a quarrel with you because I don’t know you,” he growled. “But I know you,” the menacing outlaw sneered back, clearly ready to use the Colt revolver hanging from his hip.
Only a few years earlier Matt and his father had trailed a herd of longhorns north from Texas into Montana Territory. Upon arriving, they decided to stay and raise cattle on the fertile grasslands. Shortly after the Northern Pacific rail line was completed and it became easier for people to head west. Lavina Lavold stepped off the train in Miles City with her family and immediately caught Matt’s eye. When they fall in love, Matt’s life seems perfect.
There are unscrupulous men, however, determined to build cattle empires. A ruthless neighbor decides he wants the Daly’s claim, and he will stop at nothing to acquire their ranch. Since the entire area is undeeded land, it is up for grabs and there is no law on the rough frontier to prevent a range war. When Matt refuses to back down, his life takes a dangerous turn.
Forced to abandon his family, his travels take him down a long road of misery. An encounter with an Indian medicine man helps him to regain his sense of self, but not until after he gives in to his desperation.
A Story of the West depicts life during the open range ranching days of the Wild West. Besides plenty of action, I have added a women’s perspective to settling the American West. I researched the era to ensure historical accuracy and have written an accurate portrayal of life during this time, as well as an exciting read.
Even though I’m not a fan of historical fiction or westerns, I’ve been trying to expand my reading into other genres to see if I’m missing something. This book let me know that, yes, I am.
Susan Spence has taken back in time, to the 1880’s. She writes in such a detailed manner that I was there with Matt and Lavina and all the other characters and felt what it must have been like to live and survive in that time period.
My dad was a reader. His genre of choice was westerns. Not a day went by that I didn’t see him with a western in his hand at one time or another. I know he would have loved this book as much as I did. Maybe even more.
I’d definitely recommend this book. To all readers, not just those who love historical fiction or westerns.
Matt rode into the town of Laramie. In years past it would have been a lot livelier. Cowboys just off the range would have been drinking up their summer wages. Now there was a grimness. It was the same feeling that encompassed the entire western prairie.
Matt tied his horse to the hitch rail in front of the first saloon he found. As usual he checked brands on the other horses standing there and looked at the faces inside before entering the bar. After purchasing a bottle of the cheapest whiskey, Matt walked past a table where a couple of men sat. One of them looked at him and sniffed loudly.
“Smells like we got one of them prairie lice in here.” He was too drunk to know if Matt really smelled like sheep or not. He just wanted to pick a fight.
Matt set the bottle down on a table, picked the man up by his neck and threw him to the floor. He glared at the shocked man lying at his feet, then at his companion. “Who are you insulting, you dirty sack of shit?”
“Just be on your way!” The bartender yelled at Matt. He knew the two were trouble makers, but they were also regulars, something he was short of these days.
Matt grabbed the bottle, shaking from the rage that had engulfed him. It scared him. Never had he felt out of control like that. He had wanted to kill the man with his bare hands.
He decided he was going to have to keep moving. But first he was going to have a bath and buy new clothes to get the stink of sheep, real or imaginary off of him. It was cold out, late fall. Matt wondered if he should risk getting a hotel room. There was one that offered baths. That would feel good. Maybe he would stay just a couple of days. Matt let his guard down as whiskey saturated his consciousness.
He had also been recognized. A cowboy who had once worked for Bully Buehler saw him on the street. He was sitting in on a poker game at another saloon that evening.
“Hey Red.” He knew the man sitting across from wanted a reputation with a gun, so he decided to bait him. “There’s a man in town you oughta’ meet, name of Matt Daly.
Red knew the name. He practically drooled. “He’s here now?” The other smiled. The trap had been set. He had no feelings towards Matt one way or another. He just wanted to cause trouble.
The man named Red called Matt out the next evening, after he knew Matt had spent the afternoon drinking. “Hey Daly!” Matt turned and faced a tall redheaded man showing off the new Colt Peacemaker that hung from his hip.
“I know I don’t have a quarrel with you because I don’t know you.” Matt first wanted to talk his way out of a gunfight, but once again he felt his rage bubbling close to the surface.
The other man was way too cocky. He sneered. “I hear you think you’re pretty fast with a gun. I also hear you’re yellow.”
There was no way Matt was going to back down. He seemed to become another man as his rage turned to cool anger. He would wait all night for the scum to draw first, and then he would blow the asshole’s face off. His determination grew, taking over any other thoughts. His eyes narrowed as he stared the man down. Red faltered slightly by blinking. He had expected Matt to be scared of his large presence. It had always worked before.
Susan Spence has always been intrigued with life in the west in the 1880s. She researched historical accounts and first-person narratives as she prepared to write A Story of the West. A lifelong resident of the west, she currently lives in Montana on an old sheep shearing station with lots of furry critters and one partially furry critter. This is her first novel, and she is busily working on a sequel due out in late spring.
You can visit her website at www.writing-ranching.com.
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