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Reviews 393 The Scapeweed Goat, by Frank Schaefer (New York: Poseidon Press, 1989. 200 pages, $17.95.) Dallas writer Frank Schaefer is likely better known to readers as the author of several romance novels which he has published under various pseu­ donyms. In The Scapeweed Goat, however, he abandons the formula genre and its restrictions, and strikes out in a wonderfully fresh direction. The result is a unique piece of fiction that reminds one of several other works in many details, but which ultimately stands alone as a compelling novel of survival and faith that raises many questions about contemporary values and blind adher­ ence to authority. The narrator of this journal-entry story is merely identified as J. In the early nineteenth century he takes his child-bride, K., into the wilderness to make a home. No sooner are they arrived than David, a fugitive from a utopian community to the east, stumbles into their home, and the idyllic bliss J. and K. have hoped for is shattered by violence. Home, the community David flees, is a sinister, closed society which has perverted a synopsis of the world’s religions into a pagan fundamentalism which centers on human sacrifice as its chief tenet. Rebelling against those who would slay his son as a fertility symbol, David runs away, but the Guards pursue him and attack J. and K., killing her and ultimately David as well. J. tells his story some fifty years after the incidents have transpired. Trapped by snow in his mountain cabin, he writes the account of vengeance and his own questioning faith as he deals in the present with depredations of nature that threaten his very life. Beset by beasts and facing illness, injury, and starvation, he converses with a pet mouse and leaves behind the journal and the explosive conclusion to his earlier adventure as a testament of one man’s life experience. Just as Bud Shrake’s The Blessed McGill managed to evoke the person­ ality of the nineteenth-century westerner in an accurate and unsentimental revelation of personality, Schaefer’s novel also employs a beautifully written, archaic and delightfully modest vernacular that charms even as it creates suspense. This novel is a compelling reading experience and should please anyone who enjoys a good tale well told in the gentle voice of one who has been there. CLAY REYNOLDS The University of North Texas The Best Western Stories Of Loren D. Estleman. Edited by Bill Pronzini and Martin H. Greenberg. (Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press/Swallow Press, 1989, xvi + 139 pages, $22.95.) Popular writers who are skilled in more than one genre are relatively rare; but popular writers who are major award winners in more than one genre are rarer than a white buffalo. Loren Estleman has won both the Best Novel Spur 394 Western American Literature from the Western Writers of America and a Best Novel Shamus from the Private Eye Writers of America. To date he has published twelve Western novels, fifteen crime novels and one book of nonfiction, in addition to scores of short stories, articles and essays. In this post-Saturday Evening Post era, it is refreshing to find the art of the American short story, once a most respected and valued literary form, featured in this volume which its editors claim repre­ sents the best short Western fiction of Estleman’s career to date. Moving gracefully and easily between the American West of the late 1800s and the contemporary American West, this collection of twelve short stories shows Estleman examining the drama of the human spirit in conflict with itself and with the natural as well as created environments in a variety of settings and timeframes. Favoring the surprise ending over the imperative of a moral-bound plot, Estleman proves himself a fine wordsmith as he crafts his stories with considerable care, as is illustrated in these examples: The Crow was small for a plains tribesman, dark as a rifle stock, and though he knew English at least as well as German-born A1 Decker, he used words the way a man stranded in the desert rations water. (“Rossiter’s Stand” 34) His grip was like his speech...


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