Long Shadows on the Crimson Range by S B Nace takes us back to a West just emerging from the rough and tumble of the early years and the aftermath of the Civil War. We meet Tom Ross, a good man who has seen and participated in his share of fights and arguments. For Tom it is time to settle down, to marry his beloved Trixie and to start a family. But, Tom, it seems has a natural attraction for trouble and never being one to back down from a fight, especially when he believes it is morally right, or the fight unfair, Tom quickly finds himself in a passel of trouble. Along with his good friend and compadre, Milt Good, Tom has to leave his family behind and reinvent himself not once, but twice. Set in the early 1900’s Tom and Milt spend much time crisscrossing the Western States, always looking over their shoulders in case someone should recognise them and they are forced to run yet again. It seems nowhere in the wide Western expanses is safe from recognition, for this hard man and his sidekick.
Long Shadows on the Crimson Range is one of those particular hybrid historical novels that combines legend, recorded history and the author’s fertile imagination to flesh out the details of a real person (Tom Ross) and the characters who surround him. Author S B Nace is clearly familiar with the tales and legends but has also gone to considerable lengths to research as much as possible about this time period and the characters that inhabit his pages. I was impressed with the detail of the journeys of Tom and Milt and it is a fillip to the author, that, as a reader, I was often left wondering what is truth and what is fiction in this tale. The book is told primarily from the perspective of Tom Ross’ friend, Milt Good and as such we get a fascinating glimpse of Tom Ross’ character and motivations from someone who knew him better than even his wife and daughter. In many ways this story reads like a long obituary from a newspaper, as it details the important events and happenings in the life of this legendary character. If you are a fan of the Western genre and particularly of “fallible” heroes from this time, as the West transitioned from a lawless world to a “civilised” society, you will surely enjoy this tale.