Honor at Daybreak

Elmer Kelton, Author Doubleday Books $18.95 (390p) ISBN 978-0-385-24893-8
Most of the elements in this aw-shucks novel about a Texas oil town in the '20s are straight from central casting. Inhabiting Caprock, a place where people say, ``If you aint's et, I'd be tickled to have your company,'' are, conveniently, the good guys: Slim McIntyre, the newly arrived, wide-eyed farm boy; Tracy Whitmore, the waitress Slim's courtin'; Dave Buckalew, the earnest sheriff who yearns for the pre-boom days; Choctaw, the brave but pithy Indian; Jolene, the straight-talkin', maternal madam; and Victor Underwood, the educated young speculator. Soon after Slim arrives, the bad guys--Big Boy Daugherty and his gangsters Turk, Irish, French and Sarge--start terrorizing the town. Despite Buckalew's efforts, no one will speak out against Daugherty, until Lydia, a prostitute, admits she saw a murder. Buckalew puts her in his witness protection program (his vacant ranch house), and falls in love with her. Meanwhile, Slim and Choctaw help the nearly bankrupt Underwood drill his last-chance well. The novel's conclusion is as subtle as an oncoming train. With 19 novels to his credit, Kelton obviously has found an audience. Here he makes no higher claim than to portray a boom town, but even for that standard, Honor at Daybreak has too much hokum, too few surprises. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 02/04/1991
Release date: 02/01/1991
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