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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Skeleton Lode by Ralph Compton

It is bad on so many levels

I bought this book for my dad to read and he brought it back to me and I read it and I had to apologize to him for giving it to him - this is, without a doubt, the worst Western I have ever read.

What makes it so bad?

When I read a Western, I expect a certain amount of realism. I am not talking about the picky, picky details like the amount of gunpowder grains in a bullet. These are the things I am talking about:

-The book is set in 1857. They constantly refer to the sheriff of Gila County. There was no Gila County in 1857 - it was not formed until the year 1881.

-They refer to the town of Globe. It was a mining town formed in 1878 (as Globe City).

-Uncle Henry (Hoss) has a cabin on Saguaro Lake. Saguaro Lake was not formed until a hydroelectric dam was installed in 1930.

-Characters camp along creekbeds in the mountains during massive thunderstorms. I am not a mountain climber but I do know that you avoid creekbeds due to flash floods.

Superstition Mountains of Arizona, the setting of the book.
-The Spanglish (English/Spanish combination used by the Spanish-speaking characters speaking broken English) is pathetic. The Spanish thrown in reads like the individual words were looked up in a pocket dictionary (no one at the publishing house knows a single person that speaks Spanish?). No verb conjugation. Incorrect adjective placement and usage, use of the English "apostrophe s". Plus, I can understand the need for Spanglish when the Mexican characters are speaking English, but why wouldn't they speak to one another in regular Spanish - and Compton could skip the Spanglish all together for those parts?

-The worst feature of the book is its total disregard for time and distance when riding on horseback. The sheriff in Phoenix is constantly popping over to Tortilla Flats. An internet map search tells me that it is more than an hour by car. That would be a long trip on a horse in the desert. But, that's okay, Bowdre, one of the bad guys, takes a 35 mile mule trip one afternoon on his way back from a 12 mile morning walk to the store. Dallas and Arlo (the good guys) are forever traveling around the Superstition Mountains - from one side to the other with no problem and quite quickly, despite the fact that these mountains cover approximately 250 square miles. All of these distances would be believable if the book was set in 1957 and everyone had Jeeps, but with horses? Laughable.

Throw in the repetitive nature of the book and you can why I had to apologize. The main "good guy and girl" characters only have four conversations (1) We loved Uncle Hoss, wasn't he great - too bad he's dead; 2) We love each other and we fully intend to get physical in our relationship, but not quite yet; 3) We hate Gary Davis (the bad guy); 4) Is the gold worth all of this? They have these converstation over and over and over and over.

The bad guys just fight and argue and then one of them shoots another - that is unless their horses and food get stolen (it happens over and over) and they make a 12 mile march to town (in the desert!) and ride back in the same day. Oh - and twice they get stuck in lightning storms that blast dozens of lightning bolts all around them.

Where did everyone get the cash to buy horse after horse and supplies to feed a whole camp full of men? They literally bought every horse and mule in the area for this fiasco.

Please, read anything else by Louis L'amour or Elmer Kelton.

I give it 1 star out of a possible 5 stars.

This book can be found on Amazon.com here: Skeleton Lode

Reviewed July 17, 2010.

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