The Branch and the Scaffold
This novel is based on the true story of the infamous “hanging judge,” Judge Isaac Parker. In 1875 Parker arrives in the western town of Fort Smith, Arkansas, to provide the law for a large territory that also includes the Indian Nation. His first judicial act is to hang six convicted felons on the same day and at the same time. Over the next twenty years, he organizes a law enforcement team of marshals used to apprehend criminals throughout the territory. Because his methods are controversial, even in the 1800s, there are those who would try to oppose him.
Estleman has won many awards for his Western writing. His novel is well researched and well written; it reads almost like a highly crafted non-fiction book with fictionalized dialog added by the author to further the storyline. This book is not your typical Western novel with cowboys, Indians, and lots of action. Estleman has developed the story around Judge Parker: the type of man he became as he sentenced men to hang, and how his family, especially his wife, was able to live with a man of his reputation. I highly recommend this novel and look forward to reading another fine work from this author.