I’m currently participating in Camp NaNoWriMo but have been negligent with working on my novel. I also owe a number of book reviews. So I thought, why not try to do both? Work on my novel and a book review at the same time. Granted, this is not the kind of book review I would post to Amazon or Goodreads. I’ll have to snip away the dialogue and narrative for that, but those reviews will be posted. Many thanks to Briana Vedsted for her patience and her talent in storytelling.
An excerpt from WIP: The Widow’s Club: Guilty Until Proven Innocent
Melissa sought to distract Tupper by telling him about a novella she had read. It was The Night I Walked Off of Boot Hill by Briana Vedsted. She had noticed a stack of worn paperback books in the cabin, at the foot of the cot, most with pictures of cowboys on horses. She could make out the names Zane Grey and Louis L’Amour. She smiled at the thought of this young mountain man being taken with horses and life out on the plains. The landscapes of Grey and L’Amour probably seemed like foreign countries, even distant planets, to Tupper.
She rested her fingers on the top of the stack, noting how well-thumbed the books looked. “Have you ever read anything by Briana Vedsted?” Her voice was low, wanting to get his attention, but not wanting to startle him since they had been quiet for so long now.
He turned toward her. When he saw that she was looking at his books, his face lit up. “No. Does she write stories like those? I’ve read those books over and over. They belong to the library, you know.” His cheeks turned pale rose as he admitted to having overdue books.
“She doesn’t have a book in the library … yet.” Melissa realized that he may not understand electronic books and the Internet and she didn’t have the energy to explain all that to him. Better to just gloss over that part, she thought. “I have a copy of a novella she wrote, called The Night I Walked Off of Boot Hill. I can … read it to you someday.” She wasn’t sure about showing him her Kobo Reader, either. What would he make of something like that? And if she offered to read it to him, maybe he’ll consider helping her get down the mountain and back home.
“Can you tell me about it?” He sat on the floor in front of her, as she sat cross-legged on the cot. He was so big, she thought. He had to be at least 6 feet tall, if not more, and no less than 200 pounds. She couldn’t quite tell because he was fully dressed, but she suspected that he was all muscle. Living on the mountain, all that hard labor just to find food. She smiled at him as he looked up at her, eager for a story.
“Sure, it’s a ghost story, but a nice one, not a scary one. It starts with a man waking up in a cemetery on Boot Hill. It takes a while for him to remember his name, Barbados Tom, and to gather his last memories before waking up on the hill. The thing is, he doesn’t know if he is dead or alive.” Tupper’s eyes grew wide and the smile faded from his face. Melissa marveled at the thought that he could be scared by a story when for years he had been living alone in this isolated cabin on the mountain among bears and other predators. Yet, that didn’t seem to scare him.
“The whole story is about Barbados Tom remembering who he is and what he did and where he needs to go. The reader is taken along on this journey, learning about him just as he learns about himself. Along the way he meets up with a young man, Jim McDougall, who also seems lost and alone. They have adventures along the way.” Melissa glanced over at the stack of paperbacks. “Lots of horse riding and meeting up with Indians and traveling through lonely ghost towns. Tom wonders if they are both dead. And yet they feel hunger and the cold, they need sleep, they feel pain. Tom can’t figure it out. He was supposed to be hanged. He remembers that he was an outlaw and that he had been captured and sentenced to death. And, yet, here he is on a journey. He knows where he needs to go, but he doesn’t know why.”
“So he was a bad man?”
“Well?” Melissa paused. She didn’t want Tupper to think that it was okay to be a bad person, to hurt people and maybe get away with it. “The thing is he had done bad things and he had to be punished. But he also had a heart, a good heart, and he was trying to make things right again. He started to think of Jim in a fatherly way, watching after him and planning for his future.”
“How does it all end?” Tupper sat up a little straighter, eager to know how anyone could make right the bad things they had done. How could someone be condemned to death, and yet be worthy of life.
“I can’t tell you that. It would be giving away the whole story.” Melissa felt a little anxious, wondering if teasing Tupper with only part of the story would backfire. “It’s a very good story, and it has a happy ending. But I can’t tell it right. I need to read it to you.”
Tupper looked down at his hands and frowned. Melissa’s heart started beating hard and she felt a chill down her back. So far he had treated her well, but she still didn’t know if she could trust him.
“Does he ever figure out if he’s a ghost?” He looked up at Melissa, a child-like plea in his eyes. “Does he get any peace?”
Melissa smiled, relieved that he seemed only concerned about the story, about Barbados Tom.
“We never know if he’s a ghost or not, but that’s okay, because in the end, he’s happy. Everyone is happy.”
This review is based on my own purchased copy of The Night I Walked Off of Boot Hill by Briana Vedsted. You can buy your own copy at Amazon. It is available in book e-book at 99 cents and in paperback currently for $5.94!