Phillips is a good writer who thoroughly researches his books. His Cottonwood, Texas, of 1872, a seedy town awaiting the arrival of the train, is very well portrayed from the smallest details: hardships, swift justice, absence of a structured legal system. It comes alive through the eyes of Bill Ogden, farmer/photographer/bar owner. Unfortunately, his life is the male equivalent of a Harlequin-type novel. Sex is foremost in Ogden’s mind as well as in that of the other characters, and the reader is subjected to frequent, boring descriptions of various sexual acts completely irrelevant to the story. The men are horny and violent; the women are working girls or cheating wives. The story is told without any feelings whether of love, friendship or even lust. Ogden is unlikable and unbelievable, and the story is unfocused and often confusing. The best passages concern the Benders, a real-life family of killers. This is the closest we get to a mystery. If Phillips had concentrated more on the growth of the town and allowed the reader to care for his characters, it wouldn’t have been such a disappointment.