"Little Century," by Anna Keesey, and "American Desperado," by Jon Roberts and Evan Wright
I was delighted to find this on the "to review" shelf because I adore Western frontier stories, especially involving women and horses (why doesn't Cormac McCarthy write more women?). This book has adventure; on-the-edge-of-wilderness characters; range-war violence involving the terrible sound of sheep falling; and romance, but it was also lovelier and deeper than I had expected. It's the story of a girl who becomes a woman in the harsh Oregon desert, staking her claim on Half-a-Mind Lake, learning to ride a half-blind, headstrong mare, and making her place in the grandly named town of Century. When Esther arrives, she feels "abraded, skinless, cold, and lost" in the empty space of a strange land. Later, as she falls in love, "she looks out past him at the sky. Its space flows into her, as though they are the same size. It contains her, but she contains it, also." This was a really satisfying read.
Jon Roberts is not a nice man, and he doesn't pretend to be. Born in the Bronx in 1948 to a violent, tyrannical father, he fulfilled his destiny, becoming an unrepentant thief, a Mafia soldier, a gun-runner, a killer, a race-fixer, a whoremonger and finally a Cocaine Cowboy, importing billions of dollars worth of the drug into the United States for the Medellin Cartel. These indisputable facts make the central figure in "American Desperado" all the more mystifying, because Roberts often comes across as self-aware and sane -- as much as a sociopath can be, that is. As a boy, he learned many lessons from his father: that strength wins over weakness, that crime does pay. "It was a very good lesson, maybe the best lesson I ever got. It made all the violence that was to come my way a lot easier." Although Roberts' criminal escapades are so colossal and far-flung as to strain credibility, award-winning journalist Evan Wright ("Generation Kill") provides ample context and footnotes to support most of the details in Roberts' tales. While the graphic stories of debauchery, death and destruction can be difficult to stomach, the insights provided by the aging gangster lend a touch of humanity to this dark tale.
MOBILE AND SOCIAL MEDIA EDITOR