A Bad Place to Die, A Tennessee Smith Western ISBN: 9780786042555 Pinnacle Books, a western by Easy Jackson.
Tennie is 18 years old, orphanage-raised and mistakenly is included in a group of mail order brides arriving in Broken Bit to be picked up by their prospective husbands. Her Ashton Granger arrives, they are married and head out to his nearby ranch. He is considerably older than expected but neat, the ranch is falling apart, his 3 sullen sons – Rusty 13, Lucas 10, Badger 6 do not want her. Unexpectedly a wagon appears at the ranch driven by Ben McNally accompanied by George Washington (Wash) Jones, an obvious gunfighter, on horseback. In the wagon is a man with an arrow in his abdomen that the town’s doctor is too drunk to remove. Tennie instantly finds Wash quite attractive while he explains it is too delicate a situation for him to try to remove and thought Granger might help. Ashton had been a surgeon in the war but ceased afterwards because he ‘had had enough’. He does remove it successfully and says the man must remain for several days to make sure there is no infection. Wash and Ben bunk outside and just shortly thereafter, Ashton’s heart stops and Tennie is a widow now responsible for the 3 boys according to law. During the following few days the wounded man is improving with Tennie’s care but Broken Bit’s mayor, accompanied by the town’s leading businessmen, arrive to inform her that Granger had taken out a mortgage that was due and she must pay it or leave. However, he suggested that they could appoint her Sheriff and she and the boys could live in that office that contained living quarters on the first floor with the Jail above. He explains that a woman in that position might help to tone down the violent nature of Broken Bit. She thanks him and they leave. Wash tells her to look through her husband’s papers and not to allow herself to be forced into signing anything and leaves. She and her newly acquired stepsons move into the jail quarters and from this most unusual beginning a most interesting tale begins to unfold with a number of fascinating characters and activities being added.
Discussion: The author has written a plot similar to others of the era but with a protagonist and twist that is most unusual for its early western setting. The characters are thoughtfully portrayed and the story moves along at a pace sufficient to stimulate enough intrigue that the reader feels almost compelled to see what eventually is going to happen to Tennie and her acquired brood. A caveat must be inserted for devotees of traditional ‘old westerns’ and some additional editing would have been helpful. However, if you are interested in reading an ‘appealing’ western with a charmingly portrayed protagonist and interesting supporting characters, you’re going to enjoy this one
5* Unusual western with a charmingly portrayed protagonist.