Ragtime Cowboys

Written by Loren D. Estleman
Review by Richard Bourgeois

In 1921, Charlie Siringo is past his prime, living under a leaky roof and writing books about the days he rode with the Earp brothers and tracked down the likes of Billy the Kid. In 1921, Dashiell Hammett is finished being a Pinkerton detective, and is now building a good-sized collection of empty whiskey bottles and rejection slips from publishers. What sort of case could pair up the last of the cowboy detectives with the future author of The Maltese Falcon? Well, this one involves Wyatt Earp’s prize racehorse, Jack London’s widow, and an Irish bootlegger from Boston who wants to make his son “the first Roman Catholic president of the United States.”

Siringo and Hammett make a great team, each man’s skills complementing the other, though neither is particularly complimentary. Their dialogue spits nails and always seems on the verge of breaking into a fistfight. Actually, about every other time the two partners are alone together, somebody gets punched. The action is constant, a jolting ride on the back of a strong horse with a bottle of rye in one hand and a .45 automatic in the other. My one regret (which the author no doubt shares) is that Theodore Roosevelt died in 1919 and thus could not challenge Joe Kennedy to go at it bare-knuckled.

Highly recommended for fans of hard-drinking, pistol-packing men in hats – Stetson or fedora, your choice.