MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
Writer Thomas Cobb may be best known for his novel "Crazy Heart," it went on to become an acclaimed movie starring Jeff Bridges as a country music singer who's seen far better days. Now Cobb is out with a new novel called "With Blood in Their Eyes." Our reviewer Alan Cheuse says it's a Western worth reading.
ALAN CHEUSE, BYLINE: This meticulously detained and, for all of its roughshod shooting and killing and various other sorts of mayhem, rather endearing novel begins with a big shootout in the winter of 1918, in the high country of eastern Arizona. A posse of mostly Mormon lawmen sneak up in the early morning dark on the encampment of the Power(ph) family - father, two brothers and a hired hand - and they shoot the old man as he steps out of the cabin door.
There's a liquor sale involved and the sale of a gold mine and the decision of the Power boys not to sign up to go to war, but we don't know that at the beginning, as the bullets fly and Old Man Power and the attacking lawmen fall dead. The Power boys take off, and the chase is on, first on horseback and later on foot.
The cowboy gold-miners-turned-desperados head south for the mountains, hoping to reach Mexico beyond. Rough territory here, as Cobb writes, the Dragoon Mountains seem to have simply erupted from the ground. The foothills were small, low and short, and gave small transition from the mountain to the valley below.
The moon gave some light but not enough that the men's movements would stand out. Chapters Cobb intersperses throughout the chase story pile on all the details about the pursued and the pursuers. Historically-minded readers with a love of Western lore will really appreciate these. To me, though, the beautifully narrated chase was everything, the Power boys reading tracks, reading the land, re-shoeing their horses, riding for their lives and me, reading for mine.
BLOCK: That's Alan Cheuse with his review of Thomas Cobb's novel "With Blood in Their Eyes." Alan's most recent book is a trio of novellas titled "Paradise.