Ivan Doig’s third historical novel featuring erudite con man Morrie Morgan finds our hero in 1921 Butte, Montana, back from his year-long honeymoon with the delectable Grace. He’s got a bequeathed mansion from a fellow book lover, but no means of support. He soon lands a job with the union-owned newspaper as their editorial wordsmith. The rival newspaper, in the pocket of the mining company, has a match for Morrie. He’s “Cutlass” from Chicago, scene of high crimes and misdemeanors in Morrie’s storied past. Adding to his troubles in his newly whiskered state, he’s got a lookalike double who supplies speakeasies and more trouble. Soon it’s all too much for Grace, who moves back to her widow’s life at her boardinghouse. So Morrie’s got another project: winning her back.
This Western has plenty of action from fisticuffs to explosions and daredevil climbing excitement, but the duelists mainly sling well-chosen words in editorials – very refreshing. Butte is so deftly rendered as to become a character hosting the power, greed and corruption. And who can resist a hero who, even when his life “becomes a shooting gallery,” heads for the library?