British writers are sometimes resentful of the respect and admiration that American-set crime seems to glean so effortlessly – but, let’s face it, the genre often sports a particular concision and vividness when it comes to both scene setting and flinty use of language. Take this passage from Frederick H. Christians Apache Country:
‘At eight twenty-two Bert Bonnell’s call came in.
Up on Garcia Flat, north of town, rancher Bonnell had seen buzzards circling over an arroyo. Figuring maybe one of his cows had dropped a stillborn calf, he drove over to check. About a mile up the arroyo, he came upon a black Lexus slewed over to one side of the trail with both its front doors wide open. Near it, face down in a blackened pool of blood, lay the body of a man, a cloud of flies buzzing around the bloody mess of brain and bone that had been his head.’
We’re hooked already, aren’t we? The novel itself is something a crossbreed, with elements of the tough noir narrative and the existential Western stirred into the mix to potent effect.
Riverside New Mexico police wanted to pin a murder rap on James Ironheel. He was captured near the scene of a double murder, so it seemed a slam-dunk case. But law officer David Easton had his doubts. When Ironheel’s lawyer is murdered, and his transfer to a safe-house is compromised it seems Easton’s doubts were justified. Now they are being both hunted and whoever is hunting them down wants them out of the way – permanently.
Christian’s Apache Country hits the ground running, and maintains its momentum throughout its pared-to-the-bone narrative.
Apache Country is published by Piccadilly Publishing