Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Devils on Horseback -- Zeke's Story

Ezekiel (Zeke) Blackwood, his brother Cornelius (Lee) and their cousin Gideon Blackwood are the three remaining members of the Devils on Horseback. In the little community of Tanger, Texas, together with their buddy Jake Sheridan, they have found a welcome and very possibly, a home. They have been successful in ridding the town of the marauders who were kidnapping women and selling them as sex slaves in Mexico. The town's mayor has been found out to be an embezzler and along with Gabriella's mother, have escaped the penalties for their crimes by running away to parts unknown. However, there is trouble in paradise. Zeke has been forming an attachment for the preacher's daughter and during the last raid, this lovely and demure creature has been killed right in front of him as he struggled to save her from capture. His failure to do so and her resulting death have thrown him into a world composed of an alcoholic haze that is now months' long. Zeke's brother Lee is himself a casualty of the War having lost one of his arms to a battlefield surgeon. His continuing anger at this eventuality and his rage over having to live as a partial man (as he sees it) are a part of the background of these two brothers.

In a strange series of events, the town council of Tanger comes to Zeke asking him if he would be the new sheriff--initially on a month's probation -- providing he stayed sober and didn't cavort with whores (another activity in which he indulged repeatedly during his drunken stupors). He agrees and makes a serious attempt to fulfill their expectations as he has come to realize the the drink and the resulting craziness are not how he wants to live. He is hoping that this new job and responsibility to the people of the town will help fill that emptiness he no longer knows how to combat.

Enter Lucy Michaelson -- a young woman who is herself a survivor of the War and who is seeking a job in the local saloon. She is not a prostitute and makes it clear that she does not plan to earn any of her money "on her back" as is often the case with saloon girls. She is a hard worker and an honest person, but because she works in the saloon, she is branded a "fallen woman" -- guilt by association. Even after being put in jail as the instigator of a bar fight--a charge she successfully repudiates--she is treated with respect and kindness by the new sheriff who is attracted to her strength, her obvious survivor skills, and her honesty.

Beth Williamson continues the saga of this little town while telling Zeke's story. She draws a picture of a 19th century community that is populated by good people and not-so-good, people who are anxious to judge others before knowing the facts -- persons who seem to inhabit every town and city in the world--and characters who are normal, troubled, kind, generous, stingy, and who are all wanting to be accepted and nurtured within the context of this town and its dynamic. Zeke struggles with his own demons while trying to correct situations in the town, some immediate like the drunks in the saloon on a Saturday night, as well as problems of long-standing and which could change the course of history for the entire community. He is a character that is very real, and in a world that had no Alcoholics Anonymous, he tries to find the solution to his own problem. His heart is slowly healed by Lucy--a brave, gutsy, brassy, pushy broad of a woman who is not herself whole but who is willing to confront both her own neediness and Zeke's pain in order to bring them both to wholeness.

What is there not to like about this story? Williamson has written brilliantly of the personal story of the main characters while also telling the story of the community and its rehabilitation in a difficult post-war world that will not be fully healed for over a hundred years in the future. This is a warm and winsome story set in the heart of the Texas of old, yet it brings the reader face to face with issues that are as current as tomorrow. Reading this and the other Devils on Horseback stories will never be a waste of time. I hope Williamson plans to tell us Lee and Gideon's story in the future. I give this book a rating of 5 out of 5.

1 comment:

Tracy said...

Stop!! I can't take the good reviews! lol My "must be read" portion of my tbr is groaning. :)

Sounds really good. Thanks.