No Less Than the Journey
The novel is set in the late 1870s. Wesley Curnow has emigrated from the Welsh coal mining country of Cornwall to the United States in search of a new life. He works his way to New Orleans, where he begins a journey up the Mississippi to find his uncle who works in the mines in Missouri. Along the way, he hooks up with Aaron Berryman, a U.S. Marshal who is heading west to bring law and order to the new expanding territories. The journey upriver is strewn with danger, as the marshal knows well. On the riverboat Missouri Belle, they become romantically involved with two croupiers, Lola and Anabelita. As the journey continues, Wes learns to contend with river pirates, outlaws, and renegade miners. When he discovers that his uncle has left Missouri, he follows him further west. Along the way, he teams up with a rustic mountain man who teaches him how to master the revolver, the weapon of survival in the West.
Thompson has crafted a straightforward narrative about the obstacles that confront individuals as they struggle to forge a new life in the frontier of a fledgling United States. It is a story that readers of Western fiction will find predictable yet interesting.