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If Joe Lansdale wrote True Grit, you might get something like The Survival Of Margaret Thomas, It's a first person point of view western adventure with its share of violence and quirks. Much like Portis and Lansdale, Del Howison serves up storytelling pleasure.

The title character is the widow of the town sheriff who lost his life protecting her during a bank robbery. When she receives a telegraph that the man responsible has been arrested and stands trial in Bisbee, Arizona. Margaret decides to to be there to make sure the man gets his due.

Her journey by horse and rail provides hardship. peril, and more than a few dangerous folks. Along the way she forms a bond with two other women, a gypsy, Gina, and Anne, and proud prostitute. There is also Bantam, a diminutive moonshiner Margaret's husband arrested and claims to have reformed. Their interactions provide much of the humor and humanity set against the harsh setting.

This is Howison's first foray into the western. He applies his background in horror to the violence and it's gruesome aftermaths. He captures the authenticity of the genre when it is at it's finest with his rough hewn characters and their matter of fact outlooks. He also uses humor in a distinct way.

The Survival Of Margaret Thomas is one of my favorite discoveries of the year. I want to check out Howison's horror writing, but I hope he has some more western trails to ride down. When Margaret and friends have to ride out for a showdown to get justice, the book delivers everything we want from the genre with human flair.


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