White Desert - Loren D. Estleman Many moons ago, I went through my western phase and read every drugstore western I could lay my hands on. Some were better than others but after a while they all blended together and I moved on to other things.

Having read an earlier Page Murdock and enjoyed it (sad to say I had to check on Goodreads to see what Estleman I had read only to discover I had previously read City of Widows and totally forgotten,) I did not hesitate to add it to the stack next to my reading chair when I was messing around in my library. It’s quite good, a real page-turner.

It’s not so much the story, which is rather ordinary, if not mythic, by western standards: the deputy sent out to track down a bunch of bad guys, but Estleman’s use of language to create dialogue and scenery that just sparkles with realism.

Louis L’Amour was always lauded as the master of western authenticity, but his books always seemed just a little too televisionish. I’m sure he got the guns and saddles right; less so the people. Estleman feels more authentic. His scenes have a bitterness, a harsh realism, and much less glorification than L’Amour.

Murdock is sent by Judge Blackthorne into Canada to help round up and extradite Bliss and Whitelaw, two particularly vicious outlaws who are marauding through the Canadian wilderness killing miners and destroying settlements you know, the usual rape and mayhem.

The date is never specifically mentioned although Murdock says at one point it’s been sixteen years since he was at the Battle of Stone’s River which would make it around 1879, but later he implies a twenty year span so it’s unclear. He also mentions a settlement of former slaves called Shulamite. From what I’ve been able to find, the first settlement in Saskatchewan of former black slaves was in 1910 from Oklahoma, so I would be skeptical of much of the historicity of the Murdock novels, something I find irritating, but once that realization is accepted, the books can still be enjoyed for their plot and writing.

Reference: http://www.rmeldon.ca/Historical%20Sites.htm