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Axle Bust Creek kicks off a new series featuring tough as nails miner and sheriff Cleve Trewe, However the titular town serves as a major part of the book. The book feels a bit like the classic show Deadwood with more gunfire and less cursing.

Cleve, a civil war vet making his living with a gun, sees an opportunity to settle down when his uncle stakes a gold claim in Axle Bust Creek and asks to join him s a partner. When he makes it to the Nevada town, he finds his uncle has been swindled out of the claim by a con man in league with Duncan Conroy, a crooked mine owner who runs the town his way. Cleve gets a hands on a badge as well as his guns to clean up the town.

Cleve proves to be a sturdy western hero with grit and smarts, but where Shirley, an author best known for sci-fi and fantasy, show his talent is in the world building he does with Busted Axle Creek. We get to know the other miners, saloon keepers and other citizens as fully formed characters. .He describes the mining business at the time in rich and authentic detail. Along with the descriptions of the land and town, he gives us a living breathing community worth fighting for.

With Axle Bust Creek, John Shirley sets himself up for an engaging series I can see Cleve being torn between his desire to be a businessman and the pull of duty as a lawman as well as getting to know more or the townspeople and learn what direction the mining community will go in. Both hero and town have some intriguing room to grow.


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