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Marvin L. Brown

Empty Holster Cover

Empty Holster

A review by Mark Lewis

"For days the blue silhouette of the Rocky Mountains had loomed before him.  Now, at last, John Marvin Brown could feel the cool crisp air and enjoy the smell of tallgreen pines.  The early signs of Indian Summer surrounded him.  It was comforting to sit back in the saddle and behold some of God's handiwork.  Having been a lawman, he had a reputation, though it was not well known here in the Colorado Territory.
"As John made his way up the trail an old habit emerged.  He began to whistle. It made little difference if it were a ballad, hymn or lively dance tune, the performance was flawless.  For the moment the hills echoed the song simply called 'Cindy'.  South and east of here people knew him by many names, 'John', J. M. Brown', even 'Legs'.  But one of the most recognized was, 'Whistler'.  Though some thought the nickname came from the habit carried out as he rode, walked, or worked, they were badly mistaken.
"Whistler ran his fingers through his beard, scratching.  Normally, the facial hair as cropped short, but weeks of neglect had left it become long and shaggy.  Tan skin and lines across his forehead and around his deep dark brown eyes revealed years of hard frontier life.   Even so, some would consider him ruggedly handsome.  He towered above the average man.  Between the soles of his boots and the crown of his hat were six feet and five inches of rock-hard determination and muscles.
"The trail now crossed a well traveled road.  Whistler turned his horse north toward the town of Battle Rock where he hoped many years of searching would soon come to an end.  He should know one way or the other in the next few hours.
"At that very moment in a town a tall, quite pretty, thirty-one year old woman paid for the goods being loaded into her wagon.  Two cowhands, Big Jim and Jeremiah, secured the load, then waited for the boss's wife to join them.  As she approached the wagon, Big Jim took Katherine by the arm and helped her up to the seat.  'Thank you, Jim.'
"'You're welcome, Ma'am.'
"With the reins in hand, Katherine released the brake. 'I want to stop by the banking house, then we'll be on our way home.'"

Thus open's Marvin L. Brown's superb first novel, Empty Holster.
The book is "Golden Age" meets Hopalong Cassidy.  There is a distinct knowledge of who is a good guy and who is a bad guy, yet Whistler's flaws come out occasionally.  He is a veteran of the War Between the States and a former lawman and a former cattle drover, yet that is all you are shown of his background.  Whistler himself, doesn't recall most of the war.  
The scene that follows the above opening, Whistler is ambushed.  All he sees of his assailants is a large white horse.  His horse and guns are stolen and he is left for dead.  He is found by his long lost sister and taken in for recovery.
Although the description of his renewing his relationship with his sister and becoming acquainted with her husband and two children, Temperance, whom he calls his angel, and Little John, is artfully done, there could have been a bit more detail of his recuperation.
One scene really stands out.  It is a shoot out between, an aptly named, Scabbed Nose John and his gang, and Whistler, in the River Falls saloon.  Where the thugs shoot, and kill, one of their own mistakenly.  Another scene is when Whistler and Sam are on the outlaws' trail, and they have a conversation as they are lying in their bedrolls.

"Whistler rolled to his side to face Sam, 'Back when I was drivin' cattle, most of the hands believed in ghosts.  They could sit around the campfire and tell some pretty tall stories. And I'll have to admit, sometimes at night, thins get a little spooky, but nothing ever convinced me it was a ghost.  I guess if they're out there, one of 'em would have to tap me on the shoulder and say howdy, before I'd believe it.'
"If... if one of 'em tapped me on the shoulder, I'd lite out of there so quick, I... I never would he... hear 'im say anything.'  Sam shivered at the thought.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  I am hoping that he will put out another book soon.  I'd like one about Whistler's past, but then again...  Maybe the mystery is better.

To get your own copy check it out at Amazon.Com and 1stBooks.Com


2003 Mark A. Lewis