cover image Redeye: A Western

Redeye: A Western

Clyde Edgerton. Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, $17.95 (252pp) ISBN 978-1-56512-060-0

The redoubtable Edgerton jauntily plumbs new territory in this tall-tale sixth novel (after In Memory of Junior), departing from the South that was the setting of his previous books. The wilds of southern Colorado in the 1890s are home to his cast of transplanted Carolinians, a quirky bunch whose antics have much in common with those of their brethren in Edgerton's other books. The Copeland family has come west to Mumford Rock en masse, led by P.J. (Pleasant James), a newly licensed embalmer with big ideas. His ambitions are abetted by shifty Billy Blankenship, who plans to turn the cliff dwellings at Mesa Largo into the forerunner of Disney World. Together they engage in some highly questionable commercial ventures, encountering en route an oddly matched group of Western frontiersmen, renegade Mormons, a pair of alcoholic Indians, an aristocratic young English scholar and an obsessive bounty hunter and his mixed-breed ``catchdog'' named Redeye. Artfully using a kaleidoscopic sequence of first-person vignettes and shifting the narrative voice among this ragtag crew, Edgerton larks along from one outrageous incident to another, beginning with a plan to explode the corpse of a dead ``Chinaman'' on the platform of the train depot. Lurking on the fringe is the dog-owning bounty hunter intent on wreaking vengeance on the Mormons responsible for an infamous (real) 1892 shootout with a wagon train of pioneers. By the time Redeye narrates his own version of events, we believe every word. Fun from start to finish, this tale should go on building sales right through Christmas. (Apr.)