When Jess Hazzard rides through the gates of the Wyoming Territorial Prison, he wants only one thing: to get away from people as far and fast as possible and be alone.
He’s just served five hellish years for a crime he didn’t commit and is looking only for peace. But first he has to earn money, and here his reputation gets him in trouble. Not only is he known as a rapist, but as a gunslinger, and a “half-breed” Apache. Nobody will hire him and the cocky young son of the one rancher who extends a hand wants to kill Jess on sight for no better reason than to build his own reputation.
Jess moves wearily on — until he stumbles upon an ambush in progress. He rescues a rancher, Sean Thursten (pronounced “Seen” because his mother got the name from a book; a nice touch), from certain death. They quickly learn to trust each other. And at Sean’s ranch in the Wind River Mountains, Jess finds temporary refuge, a family of sorts, and ultimately hope, love, and salvation.
That’s Summer of the Eagles by BHM’s own Jackie Clay. It’s a new western published by Mason Marshall Press (aka Oliver Del Signore, BHM’s long-time webmaster).
If you read Mas Ayoob’s blog, you already know that he’s compared Jackie to Shakespeare and Twain for this story.
Go on Amazon.com and you’ll find nearly 40 reviewers loving it. And that’s just six weeks after publication. So well done, Jackie!
Now, I’m not going to go quite so far as likening Jackie to Shakespeare and Twain (sorry, Jackie). Not even as far as Louis L’Amour. Not quite yet, anyhow. But I will say that this is a good first novel, a page turner, clearly a work of love, and well worth your time.
The characters are well-drawn. Jess, Sean, and the people around them are likable, and you feel Jess’ weariness, wariness, and despair in every line. You also feel his satisfaction as he takes to the tasks of ranching (and to some extent, farming). And this, of course, is where Jackie’s writing shines. She knows what she’s talking about when it comes to everything from training horses to harvesting hay. Better yet, she applies her real-life knowledge to the service of the story. (You never feel as if she’s stopping to explain anything. Her expertise is well-integrated into Jess’ tale.)
Even the cover art — painted by Jackie herself — perfectly fits the dark, stormy, energetic mood of the story.
I’ll be very much looking forward to more Jess Hazzard stories.
The book has a few pacing and style issues. For instance, a wolverine hunt that’s peripheral to the main action occupies nearly as much space as the dramatic romance at the novel’s heart. (Of course, some of you guys would prefer it that way, I’m sure. 🙂 ) But pacing and stylistic niceties come with experience. The main thing is that Jackie’s a fine storyteller who has created strong characters and a wonderful setting that readers are going to enjoy in more books, hopefully for years to come. Up next: Autumn of the Loons, due this summer.
Want to know more before you buy? Read the first two chapters here.