A new story or book by James Reasoner is always good news.
And SAVAGE BLOOD, his latest Western novella, is exceptionally good—in a tough, gritty, moody, hardboiled kind of way … And, much as it pains me to resort to the term since it is so widely (and erroneously) overused these days, SAVAGE BLOOD also stands as a prime example of Western noir.
Eva—Tom Brodie's beautiful, calculating, seductive wife—is at the center of everything that happens in this fast-paced, brooding yet action-packed gem of a tale. Allegedly believing that Tom had been killed in the war, Eva took off with a mutual acquaintance, Martin Caney. Brodie returned after the battles were over, alive but minus his left arm, only to discover he was also minus a wife. Embittered, he never went looking for her but instead fell into an empty life sustained by a series of menial jobs that could be handled by a one-armed man.
Now, as this story opens, ten years have passed. Eva dramatically re-enters Brodie's life when a gut-shot dying man arrives at the saloon where Brodie is tending bar. With his last words, the stranger blurts Eva's name and tells Brodie she needs his help in the town of Salt Crossing, some hundred miles to the north.
For reasons he doesn't completely understand, Brodie finds himself compelled to respond. Upon arriving in Salt Crossing, Brodie soon learns that Eva and Caney are at serious odds with the local power baron, a man named Flannery. It seems Eva fairly won Flannery's saloon from him in a card game and the man's ego not only can't handle the embarrassment but neither is he willing to tolerate the competition of his former saloon continuing to run successfully while he has the rest of the town in his grasp.
Before Brodie can make up his mind whether or not he might be willing to help Eva and Caney, a trio of hardcases in Flannery's employ attempt to brace the new arrival and the confrontation that ensues results in making up his mind for him.
From there the tensions mount quickly and lead starts flying on a regular basis. Everyone soon learns that underestimating Tom Brodie because he is missing one arm can be a deadly mistake. There is plenty of action, some deep emotional undercurrents, and a couple of nifty plot twists before everything is finished. In the end, the scheming, bewitching Eva is forced to face the fact that, even though men have once again risked their lives to gain her favor, the only man she may ever have really wanted can no longer be counted among those she is able to wrap around her finger.