Arizona Star
by Don M. Russell
Trafford Publishing

"The afternoon desert wind was no longer a lady of solicitation for bartered affection; she evolved, transformed into a devilish irritant purely for gratification."

It wouldn’t be entirely false to say the author of this ode to the Old West never met an adjective he didn’t like. His prose, simultaneously formal yet colloquial, shares a family resemblance to the dialogue of Mattie Ross—Charles Portis’s spunky heroine who enlivens the pages of his classic western novel, True Grit. The writing style employed here by Russell—and noted in the book quote that precedes this review—turns something as mundane as a rising wind into insight as eloquent as it is engaging.

As his expressive depictions materialize, twirl, and grab readers’ attention like a dust devil rising from the desert, his plot takes a more traditional path. Jake is slow to anger but fast on the draw. He travels from Kansas to Tucson to help his brother defend the latter’s freight line from thieves and outlaws. In so doing, he becomes involved with stalwart lawmen, miscreants, malcontents, gunslingers, an ex-colonel who sees himself as an emperor, and, of course, a beautiful green-eyed blonde with romance on her mind.

While the story weaves its way through stagecoach holdups, shootouts, bar fights, kidnapping and more, the action stays center stage and moves along spiritedly by Russell’s penchant for smile-inducing similes such as, “And some men have a hunger for money that drives them like a bull elk in rutting season.” Historic, geographic, and atmospheric authenticity give Russell’s narrative the feel of a yarn spun by a savvy storyteller. The occasional cliché finds its way into dialogue now and then but not enough to taint this tale that is as long on lyricism as it is on liveliness. Long live westerns like Arizona Star.

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