Takedown: Taming John Wesley Hardin

Dale Chase
Dale Chase. Lethe (Ingram, dist.), $18 trade paper (300p) ISBN 978-1-59021-516-6
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The Wild West and men in prison make for strange bedfellows—literally and figuratively—in Chase’s banal historic erotic romance. Almost as long in the telling as gunman John Wesley Hardin’s 25-year prison sentence, the account of the implausible relationship between Hardin and the manipulative, unsympathetic narrator, Garland Quick, spans well over a decade, detailing conjugal delights alongside the machismo of the rugged criminals of the late 1800s. The clichéd and contrived setting is matched by hackneyed and stilted dialogue, and repetitive graphic descriptions of sexual acts are randomly peppered with plot afterthoughts and scenes of gratuitous brutality that only serve to highlight the lack of sensuality, storytelling, or historical accuracy. Religion is used as a convenient plot device. Caricatures of secondary players, such as the predictably evil warden and another prisoner who repeatedly rapes Garland, fill the empty spaces between stereotypical fantasy scenes and the obligatory nod to literature. With a good editor, this might have succeeded as a short story; it fails miserably as a novel. (Nov.)
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