The novel’s setting is the chaotic southeast Texas countryside after the end of the federal occupation during the 1870s. The young protagonist, Andy Prichard, is a green recruit in the newly reestablished Texas Rangers. He and his partner, Farley Brackett, are assigned to return two prisoners to Colorado County. One turns out to be the brother of another Texas Ranger, and their family is on one side of a long and bloody feud between the Hoopers and the Landons. The two rangers are quickly caught up in the violent drama as the two families vie for the prisoner, Jayce Landon: one side is trying to kill him, and the other is trying to free him. Quickly, the rangers become adversaries of Big’un Hopper, an assistant sheriff who bullies the locals and is bent on killing Jayce, no matter what.
Elmer Kelton’s novel is the fifth in the Texas Rangers series. The story moves in a predictable line with no surprises and stock characters, but this is not bad. It is, after all, a tale illustrating the sturdy straightforward individuals who settled the American west. If you are interested in Texas history and western fiction, this novel is a straight shooter.