1887. 5Cav is an abbreviation for the 5th Cavalry Regiment. The novel is set in 5Cav’s base at Fort Glen, where the primary purpose is to keep watch over an Indian reservation. It is in the middle of nowhere, a mere dot on the railway network. In bad weather the railway brings travellers to the fort for shelter; a pair of gun-slingers and bounty hunters, along with other passengers and an attractive young lady.
The Indian tribes are causing trouble by accusing the agency management of stealing rations and provisions, and often drift outside their designated boundary, which clashes with the white residents. The officers at the fort, Lt Coster and Major Jennes, keep order, manage the guests and patrol the area. Their views clashing when a train is attacked, apparently by Indians.
Readers who enjoy minute detail over action adventure will probably like this novel, as the author knows his stuff when it comes to life in a 19th-century US Cavalry base. There is great attention to daily routine and the various conversations between characters, which does somewhat detract from the story in places: this is not an action-packed western with gun fights and cavalry pursuits, but almost an analysis of what is inside the heads of the protagonists, exploring how they feel and why they do things. Perhaps ‘Western’ is the wrong description for this novel? It is more modern than that specific genre implies: not guns at high noon, but an exploration of the tensions and motivations set against a ‘Western’ background.