Big Iron: Book One of the Golden Spike Trilogy

Written by Jake Lancer
Review by Steve Lewis

If some traditional westerns being written today display little sense of time and locale, this effort makes up for it in spades. Jake Lancer, which I do not believe is his real name, also earned his spurs (so to speak) by writing books in the long-running Jake Logan “adult” western series, and for the most part he seems to realize that transporting the reader back into time into another era is part of what an author of a work of historical fiction is supposed to do.

Let me use the word “overkill” here, in a deliberately double meaning. What seems at first to be a conscious effort to describe Dane Bowman’s surroundings and the people he meets in some detail gradually edges to what might generously be called padding. A scene in which a wagon containing the bodies of three former ruffians is brought into the town of Black Creek takes 24 pages to tell.

Bowman, by the way, is working undercover on the behalf of the Union Pacific Railroad, whose concerns are that their proposed cross-country venture is falling behind schedule. The notorious outlaw Harvey Kidd appears to be a problem that needs eliminating. And hence the other sense of the term. Bodies eventually start piling up like kindling wood, with intermittent indiscriminate killing the order of the day. The characters who survive are fun to be with, but surviving is no sure thing.