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Appaloosa by Robert B. Parker

Appaloosa (2005)

by Robert B. Parker

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch (1)

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Showing 1-5 of 23 (next | show all)
Robert Blair
  jmail | Mar 21, 2016 |
What a great western! I blew through it in one setting! Virgil, the new Sheriff, and Everett, his deputy, are a gritty pair of rough and tough cowboys who have arrived in Appaloosa to bring a local rancher to justice for murder. I'm a big fan of western lore and this was quite possibly one of the best of the genre. Moving on to the next in the series ASAP! ( )
  Becky_McKenna | Mar 10, 2016 |
Appaloosa is one of the best Western novels that I have read, and Robert Parker’s finest novel. The two principal characters, Virgil Cole and his deputy, Everett Hitch, who narrates the story, are two very well-rounded and likeable characters. Part of the reason that the novel really works is the presence of these two characters. In this story, Cole and Hitch arrive in a new town where the resident bad guy, Randall Bragg, killed the previous marshal and deputy. After they arrest Bragg, he is tried and sentenced to be hanged. This leads up to a climactic gun fight where hired guns are trying to free Bragg. Meanwhile Cole falls for a high maintenance woman that Hitch knows is no good for him. When Bragg returns to town this sets up for a climactic and surprise ending.

There are many things that make Apaloosa work, but what I liked most is the easy going narration style that really complements the mood and content of the novel. The prose is written professionally with few flaws. This is a quickly paced novel packed with plenty of action. Even if you are like me and don’t typically read Westerns, this one is well worth reading.

Carl Alves – author of Blood Street ( )
  Carl_Alves | Oct 9, 2015 |
Robert B. Parker's Appaloosa is the first book in the Cole-Hitch quadrilogy (it's followed by Resolution [2008], Brimstone [2009], and Blue-Eyed Devil [2010], which was published posthumously; a fifth book, Robert B. Parker's Bull River, published on 7 January 2014, was written by Robert Knott, who co-wrote the screenplay adaptation for the 2008 movie with actor / director Ed Harris); it's a western set in the early 1880s about a pair of itinerant lawmen-for-hire ("town tamers" is the term usually applied to them) named Virgil Cole (a borderline psychopath who adheres to written laws -- even if he writes them himself -- to rein in, more or less, his own murderous impulses as much as he does to restore some semblance of law and order to the towns whose sheriff or marshal he serves as) and Everett Hitch. In this installment, they are hired to defend a sleepy copper mining town in the New Mexico Territory named Appaloosa against the ravages of a rancher named Randall Bragg and his gunnies. Complications ensue with the arrival of a widow named Allie French, who secures employment as a piano-player in the saloon of the town's hotel, largely on the strength of her looks; she certainly doesn't obtain employment based on her piano-playing skill.

This is a cookie-cutter premise, but the interest lies in what Parker does with it. Parker's style here is spare and terse, almost laconic to a fault; people who dislike detailed descriptions of scenery, clothing, equipment, and characters' personal histories should rejoice, for they are wholly absent from Appaloosa. Parker's prose here puts one in mind of a bullion cube: everything is distilled down to its bare essence, such that one wishes for some water to thin it a bit in places. You may have to force yourself to slow down a bit so the whole thing doesn't fly by in a dreamlike blur; still, there is no grandiose bloviating about What it Means to be A Man, in the manner of Louis L'Amour, Zane Grey, or Owen Wister, which is a definite plus to my mind. That said, readers who are averse to too much "modernity" in their westerns may want to think twice before reading Appaloosa: though the prose and dialogue can in no way be described as florid (á la the dialogue in HBO's late, lamented Deadwood series), f-bombs (and c-bombs...) are lobbed, bodily functions and anatomical parts are described plainly, even bluntly, and women of easy virtue are not shielded with a variety of genteel euphemisms.

For the reader willing to surrender to Parker's rhythms, Appaloosa does offer better than pulp-fictional pleasures: Everett Hitch is an agreeable first person narrator who harbors few illusions about his own abilities or motives (he prefers work that will allow him the greatest scope for using his gun -- preferably a shotgun -- which is one reason why he resigned his commission in the U.S. Army) who recounts, in a brief flashback, how he met and was pulled into the orbit of Virgil Cole, an almost superhumanly gifted gunfighter who continually picks his way through books -- Clausewitz's On War is a particular favorite -- to improve himself; as a consequence, he is prone to uttering malapropisms as he attempts to use words he has recently learned (many of these pass unremarked by Hitch; it's left to the reader's discretion as to whether Hitch himself is aware of all of them or if, in the manner of one half of an old married couple, he simply elides over much of his partner's speech in the interest of continued accord). There is also some rather pungent and, ultimately, dispiriting symbolism regarding an Appaloosa stud, residing rather far afield from the breed's native range, and his harem of mares. And the climactic showdown in the final chapter is a jaw-dropping exercise sure to take its place in creative writing textbooks as an exemplar of how to write violence, right alongside Fitzgerald's scene of domestic violence in The Great Gatsby.

While I read Appaloosa five years after seeing the movie based on it in the theatre, the book is sufficiently different from the movie -- the points emphasized in the novel are different from those underlined in the film -- that it can be enjoyed on its own merits. The minor drawback of seeing the movie first is that the reader is apt to picture Ed Harris as Virgil Cole, Viggo Mortensen as Everett Hitch, Renée Zellweger as Allie French, and Jeremy Irons as Randall Bragg; this isn't entirely a bad thing, as the actors are mostly well-cast, although I could quibble with how Irons stacks up with the impression of Bragg given in the book, and one could wish for an actress a bit more alluring than Zellweger to play the femme fatale Allie French. (Although the biggest miscasting, to my mind, is of Lance Henriksen as one of Bragg's main gunnies, Ring Shelton: while Henriksen is by no means bad here, he's not a comfortable match for Parker's description of Ring.) The movie omits one instance of Virgil Cole's horrific propensity for violence that casts a long shadow over his character in the novel; I prefer the novel's portrait of Virgil, but the movie is a worthwhile way to spend two hours. (One way in which the movie trumps the book: the song that plays over the end credits, sung by Ed Harris in a style reminiscent of a tanked-to-the-eyeballs Unknown Hinson, "You'll Never Leave My Heart," which essentially sums up the events of the movie, in a salty cowboy fashion; Harris co-wrote this number with his composer, Jeff Beal.) ( )
  uvula_fr_b4 | Feb 2, 2014 |
Parker's writing is atmostpheric and spare. As usual, his male characters live by a code and tend towards introspection. I had a sense of impending doom throughout, perhaps because up to this point my main exposure to westerns was Shane. It was definitely interesting to listen to something in a genre I'm almost completely unfamiliar with, but I think I need to read or listen to more to get a better sense of whether this is more representative of Parker's style or the style of western's in general. Titus Welliver reading style suits both the genre and the book itself. ( )
  JenJ. | Mar 31, 2013 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Robert B. Parkerprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Welliver, TitusNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Again, and always, for Joan
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The Boston House Saloon was the best in Appaloosa.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0425204324, Mass Market Paperback)

When Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch arrive in Appaloosa, they find a town suffering at the hands of a renegade rancher who’s already left the city marshal and one of his deputies dead. Cole and Hitch are used to cleaning up after scavengers, but this one raises the stakes by playing not with the rules—but with emotion.

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(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:25:50 -0400)

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When Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch arrive in Appaloosa, they find a small, dusty town suffering at the hands of renegade rancher Randall Bragg, a man who has so little regard for the law that he has taken supplies, horses, and women for his own and left the city marshal and one of his deputies for dead. Cole and Hitch, itinerant lawmen, are used to cleaning up after opportunistic thieves, but in Bragg they find an unusually wily adversary-one who raises the stakes by playing not with the rules, but with emotions.… (more)

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