Thursday, November 15, 2012

Just A Little Something Different

Bugles in the AfternoonBugles in the Afternoon by Ernest Haycox

Ever had one of those days when you're just feeling like something a little different?
You know what I mean. Your day job's...well your day job, your leisure time is so busy it's not leisurely at all, your book is giving you problems, and you can't think of blog post idea...
Well I feel like something a little different today. Hope you don't mind, because I'm going to do it anyway.
What, you think with trepidation, is she going to do now? Oh...just a little book review of a Western.
Now I know what you're going to say, a Western? Isn't this the Cozy Mystery Magazine website? Stick with me here, there is a co-relation. Or if not I'll make one up. I'm a writer, I can do that.
Now to be truthful Bugles in the Afternoon is the only Western I've ever read. Why? Well it was my Dad's favorite book. Remember how I said my Mom wasn't a reader? Well Dad more than made up for it (I knew I got it from somewhere!) The man would read anything he could get his hands on. He was the only person I ever knew who actually read the newspaper, all the way through, every night. Even the classifieds, all of them.
So why did I decide read it? Well, you get older, you get curious, you decide to give it a try, you get stuck for a blog post idea one day, and the rest is history. Even though Westerns are not really my genre, I'm glad I did read this book because I made a very interesting discovery. The author, Ernest Haycox, was a very good writer, and in my opinion that's the best discovery you can make.
Now to the review. The story starts by giving a vivid picture of the reality of what it would have been like to live in the Old West. I mean you can immediately tell the research that must have gone into this book. It begins with a description of a stagecoach ride where you can almost feel how uncomfortable it would have been. Think mountain bike ride over the worst terrain possible, full speed, without shock absorbers, brakes which are dubious at best and in constant fear of capsizing yourself. That's how much fun that mode of transportation was.
However, the point where Haycox truly pulls you into the plot is when a Sioux warrior is seen in the distance. He looks at the stagecoach and pretends to shoot an arrow at them. However, the driver is not overly concerned. Winter is coming on, the Sioux are heading to the reservation so there won't be any trouble.
But it's coming.
Bugles In The Afternoon consists of two plots, one fictional and one factual intersecting and both are compelling. The fictional plot involves the conflict between Kern Shafter, a man of mystery who has enlisted in the 7th Calvary as a private, and Edward Garnett an officer of dubious reputation and uncertain character who truly hate each other. Why? It's a mystery! Told you there was a co-relation. Of course this situation is only made worse when both men manage to fall in love with the same woman. I know that sounds cheesy, but Haycox manages to make you care about all the people involved in this romantic triangle, even the bad guy. Now that's good writing
The secondary plot, I just can't call it a sub-plot it's too good for that, relates the events that led up to The Battle of the Little Big Horn. Anyone who knows history knows there is no mystery here, but the story of how they got there is fascinating and inevitable. Of course the central character has to be George Armstrong Custer. Without making judgments the author paints a picture of a man who peaked too soon in his career and spent the rest of his life trying to recover what he saw as his lost glory. This fatal focus causes him to inspire blind devotion by some under his command while others doubt his competency and anticipate the disaster that is to come.
Also I was impressed by the depiction of the Sioux in the story. Although not represented by a major character they are imperative to the plot, and the author treats them with respect. Surprising for a book that was written in 1943. Haycox does not tell the conflict between the two sides as a battle between good and evil, but rather of two cultures with opposing viewpoints violently colliding with ultimately catastrophic results for both sides. The actual depiction of the battle, mostly from Major Reno's part in it, is not sugarcoated but not overly graphic, and the fictional plot is resolved in a logical manner, but with few surprises. Another mystery!
Okay maybe that's pushing it, but still Bugles in the Afternoon is a well researched and entertaining book by a great writer who knew his stuff.
Hope you enjoyed my little something different. I'd promise never to do it again, but I probably will.

Mystery writer C.L. Ragsdale is the author of The Reboot Files a Christian Mystery Series. A California native, she loves to "surf" the web to research plot details for her fun, quirky stories with just a bit of whopper in them. She has a degree in Theatre Arts which greatly influenced her writing style. Working in various fields as a secretary has allowed her to both master her writing skills and acquire valuable technical knowledge which she uses liberally in her plots. She loves to embroider and knit and is a big fan of the old Scooby Doo cartoons.
Current E-Books
THE REBOOT FILES:  The Mystery of Hurtleberry House, The Island of Living Trees, The Harbinger of Retribution, and The Wrong Ghost.


  1. Reading your review makes me hungry for your next book to be published! You are a gifted writer, my friend!

    ~Nancy Jill

    1. That you so much Nancy Jill. That means a lot to me, and I always enjoy your books so much as well. I am working my next one, the title The Straw Man Myth is still holding for now, but just to give you a little tidbit Bob from The Mystery of Hurtleberry House is going to be on hand to assist Irene and Troy in their next mystery investigation. What? Didn't he retire? Well he was on his way to his daughter's house be continued.