Possibly my favorite author note ever, mostly because of its source:
One of Marta’s handguns is a Remington .41-caliber two-barrel derringer. When spelled with two “r”s and lower case, derringer (derr-in-jur) refers to a type of pocket handgun rather than an authentic Deringer pistol made by Henry Deringer (1786-1868). Unlicensed copies of similar pistols were sometimes marketed as “Derringers” with two “r”s.
—From: The Big Book of Gun Trivia: Everything you want to know, don’t want to know,and don’t know you need to know by Gordon L. Rottman (an e-book, Osprey Publishing,2013).
Write what you know, they tell writers. If every writer did that, we’d never have Jules Verne or J.K. Rowling. If no writer did that, we wouldn’t have Gordon Rottman. The trick here, I think, is to know flat-out amazing stuff. Like Gordo does. Of course, he started with a 26-year Army career in a number of ‘exciting’ units—some of which he could tell you about except then he’d have to kill you—plus wrote war games for Green Berets for eleven years, and wrote over 120 military history books including the one quoted above.
Of course, we all know about the Wild West. Men wore cowboy hats—white stetsons for good guys, black for bad ones. Everyone was armed with a six-shooter, and cowboys were old white dudes with names like “Tex” who’d grown up on the open range. Women came in two kickass models: good (frontier wives/ preachers’ daughters) and bad (dance-hall girls/Soiled Doves such as Big Nose Kate, Doc Holliday’s common law wife). Occasionally, the Soiled Doves—if they had a Heart-of-Gold—would become good saloon owners (like Miss Kitty in Gunsmoke) or even wives. On any given noon, there could be shoot-outs on Main Street. Or perhaps a gang of black-hats wearing long dusters would arrive in town, scope out the saloon, and then rob the bank, shooting their way out of town in a hail of bullets as they hightail it back to the Hole-in-the Wall/territory line/Mexico.
Except it turns out… not so much. The actual “wild west” only lasted about thirty years (roughly 1865-1895). Revolvers were newfangled inventions that only were accurate to about 50 feet, and (at least in the earlier models) would burn the shooter’s hands. The Shootout at the OK Corral occurred when Sheriff Virgil Earp, along with his deputized brothers and Doc Holiday, enforced Tombstone’s anti-gun ordinance. The only things that occurred less frequently than shoot-outs were bank robberies—probably less than ten across that period.
The cowboys? Those newcomers learned the profession from Mexican vaqueros, who had already invented the lingo (bronco, lariat, rodeo, stampede, etc) and lived the life for 200+ years. Of those new “American” cowboys, at least a fourth were hispanic or black—often former slaves. And oh, yeah— those hats? Except for the vaqueros’ sombreros, you’d be hard-pressed to find anything remotely resembling a stetson (black or white).
But even though history (and Hollywood) got so much of it wrong, there’s still something compelling about that period that defined so much of what we Americans believe ourselves to be—adventurous, brave, and entitled as hell.
From Western Spur award-winning author Gordon L. Rottman comes Ride Harder, the sequel to USA Today bestseller The Hardest Ride.
Another classic western yarn from a master storyteller, Ride Harder follows cowpuncher Bud Eugen and his resourceful fiancée Marta as they confront all of the dangers Texas in the late 1880’s holds, both old and newfangled. When the seed money for Bud and Marta’s ranch is stolen from a local bank out of its Yankee-made safe, along with an Army arms shipment, Bud and Marta go back to Mexico to secure their future and that of Texas itself, come hell, high water, or steam-powered locomotives..
- Book Title: Ride Harder
- Author: Gordon L. Rottman
- Genre: Western
- Length: 351 pages
- Release Date: January 10, 2017, Hartwood Publishing
You aren’t allowed to read this book. Yet.
Confession time. I don’t usually like westerns. I didn’t like the Louis L’Amour paperbacks my father hid under his engineering journals. I didn’t like the beautiful edition of The Virginian that my grandmother gave me for my ninth birthday. I couldn’t see what my mother liked about John Wayne, Gunsmoke, or Bonanza. I sniggered at Spaghetti Westerns (except the ones with Clint Eastwood, because… Clint Eastwood).
But I absolutely loved The Hardest Ride, the first book in this series. It was firmly in the Wild West Show part of the genre, and author Gordon Rottman systematically checked off just about every trope and expectation and then proceeded to play straight with readers even as he subverted almost every trope. Cowboys, horses, guns, bank robbers, trains—all are in these books. And none are quite what I was expecting.
This genre subversion sneaks up gradually as young Bud Eugen narrates his journey into manhood. He’s such a nice kid that you almost don’t notice as he acquires the deadly skills and expertise that will make him a legend. Maybe it’s the fact that he’ll simply never catch up with—or even understand—Marta, the tiny, mute girl he reluctantly rescues but never sees it coming as she becomes the center of his world. Marta is, quite simply, a force of nature.
And that’s why you can’t read Ride Harder until you’ve read The Hardest Ride. You’ll miss too much Marta. Sure, you could probably get a good idea of what she’s all about in the very first chapter of Ride Harder. Bud and Marta have just been robbed of the money that was supposed to set them up with marriage and a ranch of their own. Bud is despondent, but Marta simply has no interest in hearing what they can’t do about the situation. And despite their language differences and Marta’s inability to speak, these two have no communication issues.
“What you looking at me for, niña? It ain’t my fault. Sumbitches got the drop on us good.”
From under the sombrero she’d taken off a dead bandito last December, her big ol’ black eyes were glaring a hole right through me. She’d held up her left hand to let me know again they’d taken her silver ring.
Here it comes.
Like a clap of thunder, she slapped her hands, stomped her sandaled foot, and jabbed her middle finger down the side trail.
“ Qué? You want me to go after them thieving desperadoes? I ain’t got no caballo, pistola, carabina, or escopeta,” the last being her own shotgun the road agents took. “You know they even took your derringer, uh, poco pistola.”
She slashed her hand cross her throat, then made a strangling motion and a scary gurgling choking noise. I know a lot of bad Mex words for people you’re mad at, and I bet she was thinking all of them and some I’d never heard. I say thinking, seeing Marta’s as mute as an angel’s statue, not that she’s exactly an angel.
What follows is indeed gritty, funny, bloody, and ultimately satisfying on a fundamental level. Not only does it add to their growing legend, but after the money they’ve recovered so bloodily is again lost in a bank robbery, it sets up Bud and Marta for the inevitable harder ride to come.
There are plenty of stock supporting characters—the by-the-book Army officer, the Texas Ranger, the beautiful but shady lady, the black-Indian half breed scout—but each is given three-dimensional life outside of their tropes, and an all-important sense of humor. Take this exchange between West Point educated officer Zach and cowboy Musty—
“Honi soit qui mal y pense,” said Zach. “That means ‘Evil be to him who evil thinks.’”
“That ain’t Mex,” said Musty. “What is it?”
“Latin. Ain’t never heard of that injun tribe. They way up north?”
“More eastward,” said Zach.
In addition to getting his job done, we get to see Bud take more steps on his road to maturity. And, clueless as ever, we see him trying to puzzle out just what it is that makes him love Marta.
I liked watching her. Pretty as a filly in a parlor when she cleaned up. Her eyes, she looked at me, and I couldn’t drag my peepers away from her. Even when giving me her stern look, which I saw a lot. But it was somethin’ else. What did Clay call her, one of those sawbuck words? “Determined.” Clay said that meant to never give up and to concentrate. Whatever she was doing, she was concentrating up to her chin. And there was that other thing. I jus’ never knew what she was going to do. Kept me with my boots in the stirrups, you know? I mean, with most cattle you jus’ know what they’re going to do, the same old thing they all do. But there’s always a few in the herd, there’s no telling. Hell, all the cattle could be fighting to get away from a puma, but there’s one who’ll decide to go after the killer critter her own self. That would be Marta.
Maybe I should just be honest and say those five stars are all for Marta. But if I could, I’d give a few more stars too, for the author. Not only did Gordon Rottman show us both Marta and Bud growing into formidable individuals and into a rock-solid couple without her saying a word, but he tells their story through the voice of uneducated, virtually illiterate Bud without making either of them seem stupid or pitiable. In fact, I found Bud’s voice so engaging that when his grammar is repeatedly corrected by the painfully well-educated (but deadly) femme fatale Mera, it makes her seem the annoying one.
**I received this book for from the publisher or author to facilitate an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.**