by Dean Sault
Publisher: American Writers Publishing Company (July 8, 2013)
Genre: Western Romance/Paranormal elements
Available in: Kindle/Mobi and PDF
My review is so late going up today in large part because I stayed up too late reading this story. A measure of what an incredible page turner it is. One very large plus for Mr. Sault right there.
Set in the late 1800s (I think) in a western ranch setting. Features a cattle roundup. bad guys, flash floods, a romantic entanglement between our protagonist and a spitfire young woman, the ghost of an Amerindian and the spirit of his spirit guide wolf.
It is very well written and crafted. Sault's prose style is comparable to Hemingway's--spare, precise, fast paced.
Even the editing was above par for an inde-author. There were a few minor issues but I've seen as many similar in big house publications. Especially first editions. Even a Stephen King or a Joyce Carol Oates and others you wouldn't expect it from. I've noticed that happening more and more in the last two decades and I don't think it is an accident that this developed along with the digitizing of the writing, editing and publishing process. Because so many of them can be explained by how the editing is being done with cut and paste, spell-checker best guesses, auto correct, and other word processor tools.
The pacing and mix of narrative, dialog, action and description is so well done I have to keep reminding myself it isn't a big house publication but an inde author. As I said above it is a page turner and the suspense is intense. Yet spiced with occasional laugh-out-loud humor in just the right place to relieve the tension so he can start building it back up.
The character development is also spot on with well drawn individuals you begin to care about within a few lines with motivations that fit them, never clashing with your concept of them created by the author's presentation. They walk off the page and live in your head while you read and for hours after you have to set it aside.
Speaking to that point above re the author's presentation of the characters, I want to note that I've seen a lot of reviews online over the years in which the reviewer's main complaint is the character's actions are unbelievable or the character unlikable because of neurotic behavior. My word, neurotic. Their words are a mix of: too passive, too aggressive, too whiny, too mean spirited, too selfish, too prudish and the list goes on and on. I nearly always give the author the benefit of the doubt until I've tried reading the story myself. Because it is impossible to tell from the reviewer's complaint whether the problem is with the author's presentation of their characters or with the reader's lack of understanding of how fiction works.
But when the reviewer says something to the effect that 'I can't believe that because I would never do that.' or 'I don't like her because she's a whiny, spoiled brat.' that's when I'm nearly certain the problem is mostly with the reader. Some reader's (and those under 23 are most vulnerable to this) cannot seem to empathize with anyone not mostly like themselves nor understand that it is essential for a protagonist and other major characters to have flaws in their character so that they have potential for significant growth as they attempt to overcome them. Without that there is no story.
All of that musing probably didn't belong in this review. Altho...
It was brought to my mind as I contemplated Sassy, the protagonist's love interest who exhibits many of those neurotic aspects--mean, angry, impulsive, spoiled, arrogant, manipulative, unable to take criticism with grace, among them. She has a lot to overcome. Please, if you are one of those that is immediately turned off by a story because of characters who seem obnoxious, be patient with Sassy and with the author. If you are reading carefully you will catch the hints Dean Sault drops early and often as to the roots of that behavior. I can't say much more without spoilers so let me just assure you, you can trust this author to deliver and by the end you will be empathizing with Sassy. If, that is, your own ability to empathize with those who are significantly different from yourself has matured far enough.
About the only complaint I had was being confused for several chapters as to when this story was taking place. Since, if I'm not told differently near to page one, I'm going to assume it is modern day. So it was quite jarring to discover I was wrong by at least a century several chapters in after I had multiple major characters established in my head with contemporary sensibilities.
From the Publishers:
Mason “Tuck” Tucker meets Sass Thornton when she lassos him and drags him from certain death in a flashflood. She dubs him “dumbass” for entering a box canyon during a rainstorm. This label he will hear many times as she struggles against her unwanted attraction to him.
Sass’s father, Phil, owns the cattle ranch that she runs with an iron fist. Her father has been keeping two important secrets from her; one about her mother’s murderer, the other about a killer in his bunkhouse who has romantic interests in the attractive young woman.
Phil hires Tuck, over his daughter’s strong objections, to run the bunkhouse and control growing racial tension between white cowhands and Mexican vaqueros. The young man surprises Phil with his easy, yet tough and effective, management style. The ranch owner takes Tuck into his confidence, revealing the truth about a deadly gunman terrorizing the bunkhouse. He insists that Tuck deal with the threat without letting Sass know of the danger.
Throughout the book, Tuck is haunted by howls of a lone wolf, but only one other person can hear it. The wolf often accompanies life-like dreams of an old Indian ghost named Lost Eagle. The spirit medicine-man repeatedly warns him about a strange destiny he must soon face. When Tuck reveals the dreams to Sass, she cautions him to avoid the cave where the ghost of Lost Eagle is thought to haunt. Despite her distrust of the Native American phantom, the apparition saves Tuck by waking him when an assassin approaches. Lost Eagle prepares Tuck for his fate, foretelling that the young man will soon have to choose life or death between friends. His choice will result in the death of one.
Read what happens when Lost Eagle’s ghost, the lone-wolf spirit-guide and Tuck’s new found love, Sass, come together in a life and death struggle. How does the murderer in the bunkhouse seek revenge against Sass and her father? What happens when Phil’s secrets are revealed to his daughter? Will Tuck leave the woman he comes to love to save his aunt who raised him as the only mother he’s ever known? Find the answers by reading the Ghost of Lost Eagle.
What they are saying:
In 2007, severe vertigo took away Sault’s beloved avocation of bass fishing and writing for Inside Line magazine. Sault refused to let vertigo stand in the way of his love of writing. He decided to dust off his stories and share his literary creations with the world. He began by publishing his science fiction space opera, The Last Human War.
After twenty years of writing in the dark, Sault was ready to step out and share his work with the world! He says, “2013 will be the year my readers experience a diversity of genres I’ve kept hidden from the world. From sci-fi to western romance, some with paranormal elements, this will be an exciting year.”
Sault brings his unique writing style to every story he creates. With crisp, fast-paced prose, he employs Hemingway-like simplicity as he weaves complex characters into fascinating worlds. Readers often comment that once begun, they cannot put his books down. “I learned this skill, believe it or not, from writing bass fishing articles and columns for Inside Line magazine during the time when I chased professional fishing and guiding,” Sault says. “In fact, many of the stories we are making available to readers today, found their beginnings in dusty motel rooms, late at night, while at distant bass tournaments.”
This breakout author shows promise to be one of the great writers of our time. From action-adventure to terror in his thrillers, his masterful handling of fast-paced prose compares with great writers like Tom Clancy and HG Wells. His western-romances share the strong pacing, but they slow at just the right moments to build touching love connections that tug at the readers’ heartstrings.
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