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Glorious by Jeff Guinn

Glorious
Jeff Guinn
G. P. Putnam and Sons
May 2014

Glorious, the first book in a trilogy of novels by Jeff Guinn, is a must read for fans who miss westerns. There is an element of “Gunsmoke” with the moralistic sheriff, the ranch element of “The Virginian” and the family element of “The Big Valley.” Readers should not expect a gun blazing story but rather a realistic understanding of what the West was like during that period with intricate character development.

The plot is focused on the life of Cash McLendon, the main character. After being left on the streets of Saint Louis in 1872 he must survive with an instinct for self-preservation, being able to capitalize on opportunities presented. Choosing the path of financial security over happiness he betrays Gabrielle, the woman he loves, and becomes the heir apparent to industrial mogul Rupert Douglas. Unfortunately, tragedy strikes and he is forced to flee to Glorious, Arizona. He is so self absorbed he does not realize that he is out of place in the western frontier where he cannot shoot, fight, and ride a horse. This town’s occupants also include Gabrielle and her dad who left Saint Louis to stop the despicable gossip. Besides trying to win back Gabrielle’s love Cash becomes committed to the townspeople’s aspirations and desires. As with most western plots Cash and the townspeople must battle the rich powerful rancher, Colin MacPherson, who wants to become the sole owner of all the shops and businesses.

The compelling characters greatly enhance the plot. The honest sheriff, Joe Saint, who is also in love with Gabrielle, creates a love triangle central to the narrative. There is also the endearing bar owner/madam who offers both liquor and whores to the gang of prospectors who have descended on the town in hopes of striking silver; as well as the hotel owner, a blacksmith, brutish cowboys in the employ of the powerful rancher, and Bob Pugh, owner of the lone livery stable, expecting to make his fortune renting mules to silver prospectors.

What makes the story even more believable is the description of the prejudices of the town. Through the character’s eyes the reader understands what happened to the Chinese since racial prejudice was prevalent in the frontier. They had to sit in the back of any meetings and social gatherings if they were allowed to attend at all. They were always observers, but never participants. A main character, Sydney Chau, an American born Chinese woman becomes a natural healer, and serves as the town doctor. Her family came to work on the railroad and when it was finished ended up growing vegetables and doing laundry for the town residents, necessary services no one else wanted to provide. A powerful quote, “A white man danced with a Chinese woman and the world didn’t come to an end. It will help everyone realize that the Chinese are human beings too.”

Glorious is a must read for those longing for the return of the western. It is a riveting and realistic tale of what frontier life was like in the early 1870s. The story has all the elements of life, love, hope and ambition in the American West.

 

Elise Cooper