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362 Western American Literature The Time It Never Rained. By Elmer Kelton, with an Afterword by Tom Pilkington. (1973; rpt. Ft. Worth: Texas Christian University Press, 1984. 377 pages, $16.95.) The republication of Elmer Kelton’smodern “cowboy” novel, The Time It Never Rained, is a welcome event for readers and students of western American literature. The plot details the struggle of the rancher Charlie Flagg against not only the devastating drought that gripped the area around San Angelo, Texas, in the 1950s, but also his battle against governmental red tape in the aid programs which turned out to be financial quagmires for unsuspect­ ing ranchers. This volume is the second in the new Chisholm Trail series from a suddenly quite active Texas Christian University Press, and the After­ word by Tom Pilkington is excellent. LAWRENCE CLAYTON Hardin-Simmons University The Turquoise Dragon. By David Rains Wallace. (Yolla Bolly Press/Sierra Club Books, 1984. 230 pages, $12.95.) The publishers are calling The Turquoise Dragon “an eco-thriller,” and I have to confess that when I first heard that term, my guard went up. A murder mystery with bio-regional intentions? It sounded like an unwieldy mixture. Too tricky. Too trendy. But David Wallace quickly disarmed me. He has not only delivered an immensely readable book; he has added some­ thing fresh to the literature of environmental consciousness, and given us a high-country version of the West Coast detective novel. Like Lew Archer and The Continental Op, George Kilgore is a loner. Not as hard-boiled as Sam Spade or Philip Marlowe, he still displays enough cynicism to have a place in their jaded company. The big difference is that he lives not in the city, but in the wilds of Trinity County, five hours north of San Francisco. And his world-view has been shaped, not by street life and the many varieties of urban corruption, but by disillusionment with the Forest Service, followed by a few years growing dope in the backwoods, protecting and then selling his crop, all of which led to the collapse of his marriage. What Kilgore lacks in toughness, he makes up for in paranoia. Still wary from his days living outside the law, he trusts almost no one. Yet he is not irredeemably cynical, or hopelessly suspicious, nor have all his ideals been compromised. He still respects the mountains around him, knows and trusts their habits. Kilgore truly understands nature’s various cycles and how they interconnect. And the special appeal of this novel lies right there, in the way he uses this knowledge of soils and trails and wild creatures and geology to unravel the mystery and solve the crime. On the day the story begins, he has driven down to the Bay Area, “doing a few errands,” as he says, and decides to call on an old pal who lives in ...


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