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Robert B. Parker's Ironhorse by Robert…
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Robert B. Parker's Ironhorse

by Robert Knott

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Robert Knott was the lucky fellow chosen to continue the Cole/ Hitch western book series, upon the death of Robert B. Parker, the author who invented it. Knott had never written a book before, and his only relevant experience was his co-production of the 2008 film Appaloosa, which had been taken loosely from Parker's first contribution to the series. As with other such series continuations, this book's cover bears Robert B. Parker's name in huge letters 4x as large as the actual author. Thus, many prospective readers have been fooled into thinking they were getting a book by Parker himself, rather than a cheap imitation.

Knott tries to follow Parker's style, with dubious results. The two characters are barely distinguishable in action or dialogue; in fact their conversations commonly consist of monosyllabic one to four word responses. (Responses like "Is" "Did" and "Nope" abound in page after page). Thus, there's no depth, no revelation, and no character development. He also copies Parker's approach of having very short chapters of 2-3 pages each. As a result, the book's 368 pages (rendered in large print with large margins) and contains 113 chapters. To ensure their brevity, the chapter breaks are placed at arbitrary points in the text -- often occurring in the middle of the action.

The plot is readily summarized. As territorial marshals, Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch are recruited to help guard a train carrying the governor of Texas and his family along with a hoard of money. A large pack of ruthless bandits take the train and separate it into sections -- letting them grab the money and kidnap the governor's daughters for ransom. Cole and Hitch have an enormous challenge in safeguarding the money, rescuing the daughters and reuniting them with their family. To the author's credit, he seems to have learned quite a bit about railroad travel in the old West, Details of his knowledge include specifics about the newfangled Westinghouse air brakes and the means by which railway cars were coupled. These aspects lend the story a certain realism. On the other hand, the love interest could hardly be more minimal. Cole gets word (despite being out in the wilderness) that his lady back home is running around being promiscuous with men. As for Hitch, several pages after a minor interaction between Hitch and the governor's daughter Emma, Virgil Cole remarks that he could tell that "feelings had sprung up "between the two of them. No matter; nothing comes of it.

This book would likely have elicited no attention if not for Parker's name. Overall, I found it a disappointment, even given Parker's low standards; clearly his style is not so easy to adopt as one's own. Yet Ironhorse has gained as many or more Amazon reviews as Parker's books of the series, most of whom has ranked it highly. I've generously awarded it with two stars, and am inclined to wonder about the reading experience and taste of readers who have given it high ratings. ( )
1 vote danielx | Aug 12, 2018 |
Somewhat disappointing. ( )
  Tatoosh | Sep 19, 2016 |
Robert Knott breathes new life into the Cole & Hitch series with Ironhorse. I really enjoyed the story. The actions start off right away and our two heroes are immediately put into a bad "situation." The book has everything you'd expect in a good western story; heroic cowboys, train robberies, kidnapping, and damsels in distress. Knott pulls it off without making the story cliche or predictable. Virgil and Everett are still the tough and loyal cowboys I've come to enjoy.

Knott has big shoes to fill by picking up the series after Robert B. Parker's passing, but I think he's done a good job. He has certainly come a long way from the last installment, Blue-Eyed Devil. After almost giving up on the series after the last book, I'm very glad I gave it one more chance. I'm looking forward to the next book with renewed enthusiasm! ( )
  Becky_McKenna | Mar 10, 2016 |
This is the first Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch outing for Robert Knott, the Robert B. Parker Estate's successor to the great man for this series. I listened to the audio version, performed by Titus Welliver, who was simply wonderful. The story is pure Western Romance. Train Robberies. Damsels in Distress. Good Guys vs. Bad Guys. Good Guys Win. Bad Guys Bite the Dust. Damsels are Rescued. Nothing too complicated or surprising. Well, there were a few nuances: some of the damsels can take care of themselves; there's only one Indian, and he's one of the good guys; the whores don't have hearts of gold. Knott got Virgil's laconic manner down pat, and then he overdid it a little. Other than that, it was fine entertainment for the commute. ( )
  laytonwoman3rd | Oct 29, 2014 |
Robert B. Parker, who died in 2010, is best-known for his crime novels featuring a tough, but literate, detective named Spenser. He was a master of lean prose and snarky dialog who had only in his later years tried to write westerns. He finished four such novels, which feature U.S. Marshall Virgil Cole, a tight-lipped dead shot with his Colt revolvers. The Parker Estate along with the publisher commissioned actor and screenwriter Robert Knott to continue the series with Ironhorse.

I haven’t read the other Virgil Cole novels, but I have read about ten of Parker’s crime novels. The characters in Knott’s version of Parker are men of fewer words than Spenser or Parker’s other protagonists. They are also not as literate or literary, but I’m not sure I want my cowboys to be making veiled references to Shakespeare or Dostoyevsky.

I half expected the author to keep me guessing who the real bad guys were, but there is not much ambiguity in the plot of this novel. Cole and his deputy, Everett Hitch, are riding back home on a railroad train when the train is commandeered by a gang of robbers. Cole and Hitch manage to take back some of the cars of the train (killing a few of the robbers on the way), but then their cars are disconnected from the engine. The remaining robbers make their escape, taking with them the two pretty young daughters of the governor of Texas as hostages. Cole and Hitch go off the rescue the girls and settle some old scores with various members of the robber gang.

There are several opportunities to complicate the plot, for instance by having the governor be complicit in the kidnapping of his daughters to have state money pay the ransom, but all the characters are just who they appear at first to be. Despite the simplicity of the story line, the book manages to keep the reader’s attention. The author has mastered the details of 19th century railroading and teaches us a lot about the functioning of the telegraph. Perhaps his attention to the fine details of each character’s actions brings the story to life.

Evaluation: I enjoyed the book enough to plan to read one of Parker’s westerns written by Parker himself. ( )
  nbmars | Aug 15, 2014 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0399158111, Hardcover)

For years, Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch have ridden roughshod over rabble-rousers and gun hands in troubled towns like Appaloosa, Resolution, and Brimstone.  Now, newly appointed as Territorial Marshalls, they find themselves traveling by train through the Indian Territories.  Their first marshaling duty starts out as a simple mission to escort Mexican prisoners to the border, but when the Governor of Texas, his wife and daughters climb aboard with their bodyguards and $500,000 in tow, their journey suddenly becomes a lot more complicated.

The problem is Bloody Bob Brandice.  He and Virgil have had it out before, an encounter that left Brandice face-down in the street with two .44 slugs lodged in him.  Now, twelve years later on a night train struggling uphill in a thunderstorm, Brandice is back – and he’s not alone.  Cole and Hitch find themselves in the midst of a heist with a horde of very bad men, two beautiful young hostages, and a man with a vendetta he’s determined to carry out.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:27 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

"Itinerent lawment Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch return in a new installment of the series created by Robert B. Parker"--

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