The Chapman Legacy
The 200-page central chapter covers the 1890s through the early 20th century. Young Francis Chapman, a devotee of Western pulp novels, travels to New Mexico with his parents and decides to remain. He takes a job with rancher Quezada and becomes his right-hand man after Quezada is paralyzed in a gunfight with bad guy Shadrach, who is also wounded. Shadrach vows revenge on everyone involved, and eventually Chapman agrees to be the bait in the marshal’s attempt to nab Shadrach. The beginning and ending chapters take place in midcentury, as Francis’ son Martin is captured and tortured during the Korean War, returning home to deal with the fact that his wife had thought him dead and married another man.
The novel is not for those with queasy stomachs: the violence can be graphic. Davis gives Shadrach a background of abuse to explain his psychopathology, but the man has no redeeming characteristics. A reader who likes villains to be unrelievedly bad may appreciate that, but I did not. I found it hard to warm to either Chapman, and had difficulty keeping the minor characters straight. There’s an audience for this type of Western, but I’m afraid it doesn’t include me.