Whiskey When We’re Dry

Written by John Larison
Review by Jeff Westerhoff

In 1885, seventeen-year-old Jesse Harney becomes orphaned and lives alone on her family’s homestead. She has a brother, Noah, five years her senior, and Jesse decides to look for him and bring him back to their home. Noah is a wanted outlaw, so she has no idea where to find him. Aboard her trusty steed, she encounters an adventure few young women of her age endure. She is accused of being a thief and is slashed on her cheek with a knife. She meets and joins the Governor, who uses her skill as a sharpshooter to wager bets on competitions with men who have reputations as excellent gunmen. She does eventually find her brother and is taken to his hideout, where she learns to lead the outlaw way of life herself.

In this epic story―a polished literary tale of powerful men greedy for more power and prestige―a young woman is caught up in the turmoil of the West at a time before territories became states. This character-driven novel includes people who are credible products of the 1880s. This novel compares favorably with western novels written by Larry McMurtry and Loren D. Estleman, which is high praise. This novel should become one of the ten best western novels written this year.