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February 20, 2022
About the Book:
Against his better judgment, Hollywood-hating private investigator Nate Ross takes on a Tinseltown case in the spring of 1938. It sounds like a milk run: find an alcoholic screenwriter whose absence is stalling production on Republic Pictures' latest Western.
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J.R. Sanders Author of "Stardust Trail: A Nate Ross Novel"
Reed's Reading: Recommendations & Book Reviews
Ollie Reed, Jr.
"Reprinted by permission, The Western Way, Winter 2022, page 42."
Crime fiction with a Western setting is a fixture in today's poplular literature. I think you can trace that back to 1970 when "The Blessing Way," the first of author Tony Hillerman's bestselling series of Navajo Tribal Police mysteries, was published. The book reviewed in this month's column is an example of a Western whodunit genre that is alive and thriving.
I got the feeling the author had taken my order and written this book just for me. I'm a big fan of those hardboiled, wise-cracking private detectives made popular by Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler back in the 1930s and '40s. I love B Western films starring the likes of Bob Steele, Tim McCoy, Sunset Carson and Johnny Mack Brown. And, of course, I'm big time into Westerm music. This novel, a finalist for the Western Writers of America 2021 Spur Award for historical novel, has all that.
Nate Ross is a private detective in 1938 Los Angeles. He used to be with the sheriff's department, but he got run out of there because he testified against crooked deputies, betrayed the brotherhood. Most cops don't like him for that, but he don't like them right back. He's tough, and he talks and thinks in Sam Spade parlance without making it sound like a parady. "I knew places like this, and the people who lived in them. Nothing in common but water-stained ceilings and broken dreams."
Early on, Ross rescues and returns a "kidnapped" dummy that belongs to ventriloquist and Western movie comic sidekick Max Terhune, earning him points with Republic Pictures. Soon Republic hires him to find out who is trying to sabotage the filming of a Western titled "Stardust Trail."
Next thing you know he is involved in murder, a decades-old train robbery and the life of Val, the prettiest part of a Western music trio called The Cady Sisters. The Cady Sisters perform at the Hackamore Club, where a lot of the cowboys who work as wranglers, stuntmen and extras on B Westerns hang out. John Wayne hangs out there, too. He's still making "Three Mesquitters" movies but is about to get his big break in John Ford's "Stagecoach."
Wayne also happens to be an old high school buddy of Ross and becomes a major player in this novel, riding to the rescue at one point.
The plot has more twists than a snorty bronc, taking you through the world of low-budget Westerns and lowlife hoods, down mean streets and into rugged canyons. It's a wild ride but a fun one all the way.
----Book Review by Ollie Reed, Jr.
Author J.R, Sanders and OutWest Shop's Bobbi Jean Bell
STARDUST TRAIL: A NATE ROSS NOVEL
OutWest Shop Book Review
Contributed By Bobbi Jean Bell - Co-Host The Writer's Block Radio Show
---POST WRITTEN by OUTWEST SHOP BOOK GUIDE BOBBI JEAN
Who are we to be your guides? We are two sisters who grew up in a family that valued reading and encouraged an interest in history and the arts. Wendy spent her career with books. She worked as a children's librarian and as the buyer and manager of the children's department of an independent bookstore. A college major in literature introduced her to the classics of the American West.
Bobbi Jean and her husband, Jim, own OutWest Shop. She was the manager and buyer for a museum store before they started their own business. Bobbi Jean co-hosts The Writer's Block on LA Talk Radio, where she interviews authors of all types. The three other radio shows she hosts involve Western music and horses. Find podcasts of all her shows at OutWest Live!
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