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A. L. McWilliams, Author . Five Star $25.95 (219p) ISBN 978-0-7862-3697-8

A former stagecoach robber and his dance-hall wife hide from the law on a failing Texas ranch until a famed bounty hunter spurs them back to the outlaw world in this classic Old West tale by McWilliams (Penny Town Justice; Eye of the Cat), a relative newcomer to the genre. Shell Paxton has gone straight for years with the help of his wife, Sally, until Jesse Watts tracks him down. Forced to run, the couple lead Watts on a merry chase from Texas to St. Louis and Colorado, as Shell instinctively seeks his old outlaw partner and mentor, Vic Taylor, who raised him when his parents were killed. Abandoning Sally for Vic, Shell finds himself roped into a new gang on the trail of a cache of stolen gold abandoned by bandits in a high mountain cave. Robbing stages to fund the gold hunt, Vic's gang heads out with Watts on their trail, a traitor in their midst and a determined Sally tracking them all in hopes of helping Shell. The inevitable tussle when the gold is found and a surprising turn of events lead to a major shoot-out with an unexpected outcome. McWilliams crafts a mean tale on a picture-perfect Old West backdrop, conjuring up a landscape that's almost a character in its own right and conveying an understanding of hardscrabble souls cheerfully playing the hands they're dealt. This is an entertaining read for western lovers, who'll welcome the familiar plot devices and settings while whooping at the surprise twists, Sally's courage and the noisy ending. (Dec.)

Reviewed on: 12/17/2001
Release date: 12/01/2001
Genre: Fiction
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