Forced to flee the men who murdered his father, Willie comes across a Confederate veteran named Loving, who, despite Willie’s black skin, takes him in and teaches him how to read, shoot, and garden. Upon Loving’s death, Willie, now having taken on the new name of Nat Love, heads out into the world. After enlisting as a Buffalo Soldier, and another encounter with the man who killed his father, he ends up in Deadwood. Here he befriends the famous Wild Bill Hickok, who further fine-tunes Willie’s shooting skills. Now known as the shooting ace Deadwood Dick, Willie is once again beset by this phantom from his past. With his friends and his love in danger, he must seek a final showdown.
Perhaps the strongest, most consistent quality to this novel is the voice. Written in the first person, Willie’s voice is strong and provides great depth to an already compelling narrative. Lansdale is able to embed the reader in the Reconstruction era, and deep in the frontier and the West. This novel is a western, complete with shootouts, saloons, and posses. We have a good guy to root for, a wrong to be righted, and a villain to slay. But it’s of far greater depth than the average Western. Recommended.