The Outcasts

Written by Kathleen Kent
Review by Cecelia Holland

Set in the wild Texas of 1870, with a side trip to New Orleans, The Outcasts begins like a Larry McMurtry novel but with better women. Lucinda, an epileptic whore, is sneaking out of her bordello with a sack full of the madam’s money to go find her lover, and you’re there with her the whole way.

Lucinda’s way, though, soon becomes alarming, not to say distasteful, as she and her bad guy boyfriend go around ripping people off and murdering them. Kent’s ambitious plot, involving Texas Rangers (McMurtry again) and buried gold and people far too gullible, overwhelms her storytelling ability. She falls into summary rather than drama. That means the characters are flat, even Lucinda, whose ultimate redemption comes way too late to stir any sympathy after she betrays and lies and smirks her way around Texas. Other potentially interesting characters – a “crippled” boy who isn’t, a black riverman – never develop past the plot-device stage. This seems like a first draft, not a done book.

Kent’s research gave her a lot of detail about guns, which she uses perhaps to excess. The best scene in the novel concerns a long-distance shot across the rooftops of New Orleans. It’s somehow fitting that this scene has almost nothing to do with the rest of the novel.