Allen Wier, Author . Southern Methodist Univ. $27.50 (716p) ISBN 978-0-87074-506-5

With 17 major characters and countless minor ones, Wier's latest (after 1989's A Place for Outlaws ) is a complex story of Texas from 1842 to 1866, replete with cowboys, Indians, soldiers, settlers, liars, thieves, slaves, scoundrels and a hapless frontier mortician. Gideon Jones is an itinerant undertaker, aspiring journalist and optimistic lightning rod salesman who heads to Texas for adventure. He writes in his journal about the people he meets, creating a convoluted series of crisscrossing plots: one set of white twin boys fight on opposite sides in the Civil War; another pair of Comanche Indian twin boys discover their relationship too late to save one another. There's also Knobby, an escaped slave searching for his wife and son who have been captured by Indians; Portis "Eye" Goar, a pragmatic and murderous cowboy; Orten Trainer, a one-armed con artist who assumes someone else's identity; and a group of unlucky sodbusters. Through Civil War battles, Indian wars and gunfights, the characters will meet: some will die, others will be traumatized and a few will reach old age relatively intact. Readers may wish that Weir had scalped portions of his manuscript, as the narrative, though impressive in scope, is too sprawling and relies heavily on gruesome depictions of violence to sustain momentum. (Aug.)

Reviewed on: 05/22/2006
Release date: 03/01/2006
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