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HARD LAND AND CHARACTERS: JAMES ROBERT DANIELS' JANE FURY


Cutting Edge, a press I like, sent me a copy of Jane Fury by my fellow Austinite James Robert Daniels, so I felt the need to read it. I'm glad I did. What initially comes off as as a well crafted weekend read western turns out to have a touch more going for it.


Apparently, the book is a sequel to his previous title The Comanche Kid, the moniker Jane Fury wore as she pretended to be a male cowpuncher going on a trail drive to get revenge. Daniels deftly doles out what you need to to know about that adventure without interrupting this new one. Jane now lives as a widow on her ranch, raising a practically grown daughter.


A piece of her past rides in in the form of Hard Luck, a cowboy from her Comanche Kid days. Hard Luck now works as a Texas Ranger and is hunting down some bad hombres. When she helps out, a string of Jane's horses are stolen. She and Hard Luck round up a posse and go into Mexico to bring the outlaws and her livelihood back.


Like Elmer Kelton, Daniels skillfully walks a line between old fashioned powder burner and something with higher literary aspirations. It feels as if one of Larry McMurtry's epics has been concentrated to a tighter, more streamlined story. It is compact and has a steady flow, but provides a tactile feel to its place and period. His characters are fully realized . Jane and Hard Luck contain virtues and and flaws that endear us to them.


He has talent for portraying action and violence. Many of the fist and gunfights occur in a quick and brutal fashion. He has the ability to depict the chaos in a gunfight while still giving enough detail so the reader can follow the action. We feel every bullet, whether it whizzes by or strikes.


He also has a skill for character interaction. He captures the rough camaraderie between Jane, Hard Luck, and the posse with a gift of humor and strong dialogue. By contrast Jane's interactions with her daughter are softer but no less believable.


Jane Fury is an example of of a well crafted traditional western for contemporary readers. Time, Place, and character inform each other as well the story. I look forward to saddling up for the next trail James Robert Daniels has in store for us.

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