Robert Knott is the newest author to continue one of the series started by the late Robert B. Parker. Knott co-produced and co-wrote the screenplay for the film version of “Appaloosa” that starred and was directed by Ed Harris, who played Virgil Cole in the movie.
“Ironhorse” picks up with U.S. Marshall Virgil Cole and Deputy Marshall Everett Hitch making their way back to Appaloosa, riding a train through Texas. Virgil has just received a letter, telling him that Allie French is up to her no-good ways with various men in town. Virgil still loves the woman, but it’s impossible for her to change her ways. Keeping the contents of the letter secret for the first half of the novel, Virgil and Everett have their attention shifted to other things when a large group of bandits rob the train.
It turns out the governor of Texas is on the train with his wife and two daughters. He’s also carrying a large sum of money to be used in the purchasing of Indian territories. The outlaws want the money.
Of course, Virgil and Everett kill a few of the bad guys in the initial confrontation, discovering that many of the bandits are former hands from Randall Bragg’s ranch. The group is led by two lethal killers, one of whom has had dealings with Virgil in the past. The other is a former actor from the theater, missing one arm.
During a major shootout, cars from the train are unhitched and some of the desperadoes escape with the governor’s two daughters, heading up the mountain and away from the two lawmen. Others, however, are headed back down the grade with the governor in hand. The train car with Virgil and Everett in it is headed in the direction they just came from, trailing after the car with the governor. One of the governor’s daughters has shown an acute interest in Everett, so he’s intent on saving them.
The two lawmen eventually make their way to the small town of Half Moon Junction when they encounter a few more of the outlaws, along with some new and very interesting characters such as Burton Berkeley, who’s the town constable and owns the main hotel. He also runs prostitutes out of it but is still a pretty nice guy. There’s also Hobbs, one of the lawyers accompanying the governor to the Indian territories. Then, there’s the pretty Samantha who operates the telegraph office and Jenny who works in the railroad yard.
When the lead desperadoes find out the governor is in Half Moon Junction, they telegraph him and offer up his two daughters for ransom. They want the money or the young ladies will be killed.
It’s going to be up to Virgil and Everett to travel through the mountains to an old mining camp with the money and hopefully save the governor’s daughters.
Knott continues the saga of Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch in much the same vein as Robert B. Parker. He has the characters down, however, the dialogue between Virgil and Everett continues a little too long. The prose and settings are right on the mark, and it’s clear that Knott knows a good deal about the West.
The plot’s intriguing and full of surprises, making “Ironhorse” a great addition to a series.
Wayne C. Rogers is the author of the horror novellas “The Encounter” and “The Tunnels,” both of which can be purchased at Amazon’s Kindle Store for 99 cents each.