All I need to be entertained are cats within ear-scratching distance and a good book . . .OK, maybe that's not ALL I need, but it's a good start.

I love to read. And I love to get recommendations for books to read.

I started Cats and a Book to share the books I read with others. Some I love, some I don't, but you may love the ones I don't, so you're welcome to post your own comments and suggestions.

To make it easier to purchase books you may read about on the blog, I've linked to Amazon.com through The Cats and a Book Bookstore, which is located on the bottom of this page. Your purchases are fulfilled and handled through Amazon. To assure your privacy, Cats and a Book doesn't handle any of your payment or contact information.

Happy reading!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Shopkeeper, by James D. Best

The Shopkeeper is the entertaining story of Steve Dancy, a New York shopkeeper who has relocated to the "wild west" to experience what he's only heard stories about. But Dancy isn't a typical shopkeeper. Readers quickly learn that Dancy is a gunsmith with financial resources to spare.

The setting is a rough-and-tumble silver mining town in the late 1800s called Pickhandle Gulch. Dancy describes the town this way: "Transients and a get-rich mentality gave Pickhandle Gulch a bawdy and rowdy temper, but the overriding characteristic of the town was dust." The Cutler brothers, a couple of local henchmen, goad Dancy into a gunfight early in the story, which pits him against the most powerful and dangerous man in the territory.

Dancy prefers a mental fight than a physical one, although there is plenty of good old-fashioned gun play in the story. Because of his gunsmith business dealings, Dancy has the wherewithal to challenge the powerful bad men in the story. Money, to him, was "just the score. A way to keep track of who's winning and who's losing . . . and I like to win." But Dancy ultimately settles the score a different way.

The book is rife with stereotypical western themes: warring mining camps, good-hearted local businessmen cowed into "protection payments," a damsel in distress (although she handles herself quite well), and a romantic team of Pinkertons to assist the protagonist in his fight against corruption.

There is typical cowboy violence and a sprinkling of R-rated language, but for the most part, the Steve Dancy series of cowboy stories are suited for any age. The Shopkeeper is the first in the series, Leadville follows, with Murder at Thumb Butte still in the writing stage. The Shopkeeper is quick and fun to read, perfect for a vacation escape.

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