Saturday, August 28, 2021

#44: The Valdez Horses by Lee Hoffman

An aspiring young cowhand forms an uneasy friendship with an older, expert horse breeder with a troubling inner life in Lee Hoffman's The Valdez Horses.

I discovered Hoffman for the first time earlier this summer, finding a book of hers in a Little Free Library while camping in Michigan.  I immediately sought out what is considered her masterwork, this novel, right after.

This book was popular enough that it became the movie Chino starring Charles Bronson, but Hoffman wasn't on my radar nor seems to be on the radar of a lot of readers.  A shame, because this is another very solid western whose psychological elements outweigh the trappings of a standard oater.

The Valdez Horses has a very bleak ending, with a surprising uptick of hope in literally the last few words.  Just really solid writing that plumbs a lot of emotional depths.

I checked this out from the New Castle-Henry County Public Library in New Castle, Indiana and read it quickly.

Saturday, August 14, 2021

#43: The Hollywood Spiral by Paul Neilan

An old-fashioned private eye in a near-future L.A. hunts a missing woman in Paul Neilan's The Hollywood Spiral.

Our throwback gumshoe crosses paths with organized crime, street gangs, a doomsday cult, and various factions serving the Grid, a hybrid of Big Brother and social media influencers about to be potentially disrupted by a program called Mirror, Mirror.

Written in a literary fashion--visits to a bizarre stand-up comedy bar, and to a dying mentor remembering surreal childhood traumas, both resonate--but the world-building isn't particularly ground-breaking.  A kind of bleak, hazy ending doesn't add value.

This is Neilan's second novel, with about a decade in between.  It's a solid dystopian read that doesn't hold a lot of surprises but kept me entertained.

I checked this out from the New Castle-Henry County Public Library in New Castle, Indiana and read it quickly.

Sunday, August 8, 2021

#42: West of Cheyenne by Lee Hoffman

A Civil War vet goes looking for his brother, only to find him dead under suspicious circumstances and his widow (and her farm) under siege in Lee Hoffman's West of Cheyenne.

I picked this up from a Little Free Library in Angola, Indiana to read on a camping trip and was genuinely surprised by the novel.  

The plot is somewhat of a standard oater, with a quickly-resolved ending, but the protagonist is especially finely shaded for a western written in the late 60s.  He's a troubled, emotionally scarred person obviously suffering from what we would now call PTSD, and it makes for a more well-rounded story.

I was also surprised to find that Lee Hoffman was really Shirley Hoffman, a well-known figure in science fiction fandom who wrote westerns, sci-fi, and romances (as Georgia York).  She edited her own magazines dedicated to sci-fi and also folk music.

West of Cheyenne was a cut above the standard western and recommended for those who haven't tried Hoffman's writing.  I'm going hunting for more.