The Difference - Charles Ray Willeford An early Willeford that was originally published in 1971 ​​​​​​​​under th​e title Hombre from Sonora then reissued​ under this title which was Willeford's original preference.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​ Difference, according to the Dictionary of American Slang, cited on the dust jacket, is defined as "the advantage or that which gives an advantage to an opponent, as a gun or a club.

Johnny Shaw is being chased by Preston "Dad" Reardon, who had been a friend of Johnny's father, because Johnny had killed Dad's son Onyx. Johnny's father had died leaving him a valley ranch, one that had been grazed under the loose rules of the west which didn't believe in filing deeds. Johnny's dad thought otherwise, filed his deed, and left the ranch to Johnny in his will. Onyx wanted the ranch and came to claim it, offering a better than value price. When Johnny refused, Onyz started shooting his chickens and goats, so Johnny "shot him out of the saddle. Being only gut-shot, Onyx is writing on the ground with his guts falling out. Not wanting his friend to suffer, Johnny shot him in the back of the head and hauled him off to town and the sheriff (who owes his job to Dad Reardon, as to most of the other ranchers and cowbiys. The sheriff advises flight, even though, one could argue, he is innocent of murder. At least that's Johnny's first story.

Johnny seeks shelter from Jack Dover, the town blacksmith, of a neighboring community who hides him. We learn of these events from Johnny who tells his side of the story to Jennie, Jack's daughter. (Can't have a western without a daughter, right?) Then wanted posters appear as well as additional evidence, and Johnny's story has to change. Onyx was shot in the back -- of the head first, then in the belly.

The ostensible truths quickly become much less apparent as Dover tells Johnny about Johnny's father, a colonel in a southern regiment who had left the field of battle, made his way to Vera Cruz, and made a life for himself back in the west after the war. Dover had been a sergeant in his regiment, but learned a two things about men during hard fighting during the war: "First, men are more like sheep than gods"they always huddle together even when spreading out is more advantageous; and secondly, the "only men to win the war are the ones who are still alive when it's all over. . . and a man is more important to himself than any cause can possibly be." And then we learn Dover is not just a town blacksmith.

The book reminds me of some of the finer examples of "noir"," especially Jim Thompson. Johnny, an unlikeable little sociopath, treats those who are kind to him with nothing but suspicion and repays kindness with ugliness, attributing base motives where none may have existed. Of course, being in the first person we see the world only through his eyes.