Parker's gunslingers back in 'Brimstone'


  "Brimstone" by Robert B. Parker is the third in a series of western novels dealing with the characters of Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch (see the movie, "Appaloosa" starring Ed Harris & Viggo Mortensen). Cole and Hitch are gunslingers that move from one town to another, taking jobs as sheriffs, deputy sheriffs, and even as lookouts in the local bar, keeping an eye out for trouble and dealing with it when it rears its ugly head.
  Continuing where "Resolution" left off, "Brimstone" follows Cole and Hitch’s search across the state of Texas for Allie French, who seems to have a problem saying no to any man with a sexual itch. Though Cole doesn’t abide by Allie’s actions, he is in love with the woman and is determined to give her another chance. Hitch as usual is along for the ride and to protect Cole’s back.
  After a year of searching, the two men find Allie working as a prostitute in a low-life saloon that’s in a no-name town and she’s just about at the end of her rope. They have to kill four men to get her back. The three of them then ride further and take up residence in Brimstone, where Cole and Hitch become deputy sheriffs and Allie takes up playing the organ for the Church of the Brotherhood that’s run by the charismatic Brother Percival. It isn’t long, however, before Allie is doing more than playing the organ.
  As if Cole didn’t have enough to deal with, there’s also an ex-outlaw named Pike, who runs the best saloon in town and has plans for taking over the community and running it his way. Finally, there’s an Indian named Buffalo Calf, who’s killing settlers in the area and appears to have a grudge against Pike, who used to be an Indian fighter for the Army before he changed to a more profitable career. Cole and Hitch are going to have their hands full with this situation, especially when Pike brings in 25 hired guns to deal with Brother Percival and then the two deputy sheriffs. But Cole, being who he is, won’t back down from nothing and doesn’t mind if the odds are a little bit unbalance. Hell, he likes a challenge!
  As usual, Parker weaves an excellent story with a multitude of interesting characters that paint a picture of what the Old West was like. In fact, what makes this series so darn good are the lead characters of Cole and Hitch. These are the type of characters that quickly become friends with the reader, and you find yourself not only rooting for them, but wanting to learn more about them and to follow their onward journey. There’s also the delightful banter between Cole and Hitch, especially when Hitch starts to tease Cole about being famous and having everyone treat him as if he were a hero. Hitch, on the other hand, is hardly noticed by anyone and brings that to his partner’s attention more than once. And, after more than 50 novels (including the “Spenser” and “Jesse Stone” series) Parker’s prose is lean and mean. He uses the bare essentials to convey dialogue, keeping the majority of sentences short and precise, and the description of characters and locations to a minimum, offering the reader just enough information to help in aiding their imagination.
  Nothing is ever wasted in a Parker novel, and the books are always fast reads. As I’ve often said about the “Spenser” novels, each book is like visiting with an old friend for a couple of hours. You get to play catch up on how your friend has been doing for the past year and to find out what he’s now up to. Such is the case with "Brimstone." You get to sit down for a while with Cole and Hitch, watching as they do their thing, which is basically shooting the bad guys and making a small western town a much better place to live.
  I don’t know if there will be a fourth novel in what Parker calls the "Appaloosa Trilogy," but I certainly hope so. Though I’m not a big fan of the “western” genre, I am a big fan of the Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch novels. I also hope that Ed Harris and Viggo Mortensen will return with a theatrical version of either "Resolution" or "Brimstone." These two excellent actors who captured the characters of Cole and Hitch perfectly and brought new life into the western movie. So, if you enjoy reading a good western or watching one, do yourself a favor and pick up the "Appaloosa Trilogy" in hardcover or paperback, or the movie of "Appaloosa" on DVD. This is about as good as it gets!