cover image Crack in the Sky

Crack in the Sky

Terry C. Johnston. Bantam Books, $23.95 (496pp) ISBN 978-0-553-09078-9

Despite enough realistic action and soft-core sex to keep the pages turning, this latest addition to the life story of frontiersman Titus Bass will disappoint even fans of Johnston's other Titus books, Carry the Wind, Dance on the Wind and Buffalo Palace. No longer the Lothario of the West but still just as macho as they come, middle-aged Titus now moons over one lucky Indian maiden as he battles horse thieves, hostile Comanches and equally hostile terrain, savors the pleasures of friendly camps and engages in a series of predictable adventures that might have been lifted from any number of contemporary westerns (similarities to Michael Gear's recent Coyote Summer are particularly striking). As usual, Johnston lays the period details on thick: describing every activity of the characters in minute detail, his narrative voice shifts from one point of view to another and slips frequently into frontier-speak (""Now, those Injun gals, Fawn and Pretty Water, they had never appeared to worry about the niceties of preliminaries nor concerned themselves with social appearances""). With static minor characters and too many stereotypes, the book wants editing--and cutting, by about half. It may be time for Titus to fade off and for Johnston to develop a more believable and interesting protagonist. (Sept.)