Jericho’s Road

Written by Elmer Kelton
Review by Marcia K. Matthews

Jericho’s Road is a cow trail on the border between Texas and Mexico that’s ruled by cattle baron Jericho Jackson. The Texas Rangers and the Mexican landowners are in the midst of a border war. Big Jim McCawley marries the daughter of Mexican rancher Don Chavez to preserve her land from Jericho after he has Don Chavez killed. The son, Lupe, takes refuge in Mexico and becomes Jericho’s archenemy. Big Jim tells Andy the war will be over “when nobody is left who remembers what the trouble was all about.” Andy, who has grown up among Comanches, sees both sides, keeps things to himself, and plans to survive. He is both a warrior and a diplomat.

Characters are portrayed at middle distance, and descriptions are sparse. Andy, Len and Farley report to Sergeant Donahue, an unscrupulous bigot who doesn’t bother to sort out who deserves to live or die. There is moral ambiguity in the border war: working for Texas Rangers, Manuel kills unarmed prisoners. Kelton’s writing isn’t flashy, but honest and wise. He draws upon the history of early Texas and the lives of real people in his saga of the Texas Rangers. He shows how things were done in Ranger camp, and it feels like the truth. Characters act as we would suppose they should act under the circumstances. If you like Westerns, this is solid entertainment and a keeper.