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I've been a house painter, dishwasher, broiler cook, private detective, military intelligence analyst, and I spent nearly 40 years as a reporter covering crime, 26 of them for the San Francisco Chronicle. These days I write science fiction, fantasy, horror and crime fiction, and I blog about books, films and crimes that don't receive sufficient attention from the mainstream media. I would like to be Elmore Leonard, Raymond Chandler, Ross MacDonald, Dashiell Hammett or George V. Higgins, but all of them are dead so I'll just stick with what I am already doing. . .

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

50 Shades of Zane Grey in E.A. Cook's Thriller, "Taconite"


By E. A. Cook

77 pages

(Rogue House Publishing; February 4, 2016)

eBook by Amazon Digital Services


I admit a degree of tardiness in getting around to E. A. Cook's fine adventure story, but I bought it when it first appeared in February then promptly lost track of it in my 260 book Kindle library.

Recently I finally got a chance to crack it, and I am glad I did.

This is good old-fashioned western action set in the early raw days of the Minnesota Iron Range. It  reminded me of novels by Zane Grey, with their vivid descriptive passages and true-to-life dialog.

In brief, the time is 1893, only seven years before the turn of the century. Lucient Robinuex, the head of a New Orleans-based detective agency, is called to his family's long abandoned homestead in Minnesota to investigate the murder of a pair of miners.

When he gets there, he discovers that the investigative assignment was a ruse intended to bring him to the area so an evil brother and sister can kill him and steal his family's land. It turns out that the parcel is located in the right of way of a planned railroad line that will serve a huge iron mining company.

The sister, Colette Luzon, a beautiful but twisted woman, engineers a swindle to seize control of the property. Her brother and crime partner, the psychotic, Antoine Gasparilla, attempts to blow him up with an improvised bomb.

The Luzon-Gasparilla couple have a long history with Robinuex's family: Their father murdered his own. Confronting them is a dangerous business but Robinuex has little choice if he intends to salvage some of the value of his stolen property.

Robinuex survives the bomb attack, but is knocked unconscious into a wild river by the blast and barely escapes his pursuers. He is wet, cold and wounded, but he is also determined to turn the tables on his enemies:

"Lucient was disgusted, disappointed, and mad clean through. He been played like a violin by enemies he didn't even know he had. He wanted to live out the rest of his years here and had been conned, swindled, and shot in just three days."

The remainder of the book  details how he uses his brain, experience and pure good luck  to rectify the situation. 

The book is sprinkled with characters both savory and unsavory and moves forward quickly. You have your gun thugs, an appearance by the Pinkertons, a dependable sidekick who is almost as able as Robinuex, unscrupulous mining bosses and a stalwart hero who is quick with his fists, sharp-eyed with a gun and comes across as both noble and eminently likeable.

Of course, during all the action he meets a good woman and takes a romantic shine to her.

The plot is crisp, the characters well defined, the good guys larger than life and the villains reprehensible.

E. A. Cook
All I had previously read by E.A. Cook was a turn of the century novella called Rusk about another member of the Robinuex family.
The tale revolved around a former French foreign legionnaire who once fought as a mercenary and now drives one of the few motorized taxis in New Orleans. The story involves an abduction, a cross-country pursuit, gun fights and the love of a beautiful and talented woman.
Rusk was good, but short -- so short I felt cheated when I reached the end.
Taconite is also a short book, but one that is definitely worth sinking your teeth into. If you like western novels with fisticuffs, gun battles and an enjoyable hero, I strongly recommend it.

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