Saturday, 22 August 2015

The Master Executioner by Loren D. Estleman, 2001

There are many reasons why we return to an author we have read before. What compels me to read the same writer again is the writing itself. For this reason I read Anthony Trollope’s Autobiography twice. Even now I flip through the book and marvel at the lucidity of prose. George Bernard Shaw’s writing had a similar heady effect on me.

Several modern writers do that as well. Loren D. Estleman, author of detective and western fiction, is one. I was impressed by his narrative flair in Gun Man (1985) and Bloody Season (1987). It was simple and yet stylistic.

I have been meaning to read more by Estleman and an opportunity presented itself this evening, when I came across The Master Executioner on a book website. I read the synopsis and liked it instantly. He has written about a part of the Old West I'm not familiar with—hangman and hanging—a form of capital punishment that still prevails in countries like India.

Here is what the American Library Association had to say about the book:


“Oscar Stone accepts a temporary position building a gallows in Topeka, Kansas, where he meets Fabian Timothy Rudd, a hangman of some repute. Rudd is impressed with Stone's carpentry skills and pride in his work and so takes on the role of mentor as Stone becomes a kind of apprentice hangman. But no one loves a hangman, including his wife, who can't live with her young husband's career choice. Stone travels through the West with Rudd from execution to execution, drinking to dull the isolation and refining his skills. Miscalculations can lead to strangulation or worse: a beheading. Decades pass, and Stone has a final meeting with the wife who left him and learns a terrible truth. Estleman has created an unforgettable character in Stone. Swept up by circumstance and an unwanted gift for dispensing death, he's unable to break away from his life's fated path despite the loss of all he holds close. A dark, compelling journey into a previously unexplored facet of the Old West.”

I downloaded the 272-page Kindle edition for Rs.64 ($0.91) and plan to read it next month. It has a nice biographical sketch of the author and this opening line—“It occurred to Anders Nilsen that if it weren't for having to wait at the train station he would be quite contented to remain both a deputy sheriff and a Methodist.”

On the face of it, the opening sounds innocuous but it was enough to make me curious. I want to read further and see where Estleman is taking me. I'm sure he won’t disappoint.

26 comments:

  1. This has been on my reading list for quite a while, but I haven't gotten to it yet. I think Estleman is, if not the best, one of the best western writers still writing. You'll have to let us know how it is once you've read it.

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    1. Sure, Ben. I found Estleman's characters in GUN MAN and BLOODY SEASON quite realistic, and both the stories were well-written.

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  2. a good solid writer, I've always thought. Not my favorite western author but always has good stories to tell.

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    1. Charles, while I'm no expert on western authors, there are some I like more than others and Estleman is one of them. I like a good, uncomplicated story.

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  3. A new author for me and one I will keep a look out for.

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    1. Mystica, I have not read Estleman's detective fiction but if it's anything like his westerns, then I'm sure I'll enjoy reading it.

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  4. Sounds very interesting. I hope to hear what you think about this book.

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    1. Tracy, I'll review the book as soon as I read it sometime next month.

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  5. I've read a couple of Mr Estleman's Westerns and found them very entertaining and well written.

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    1. Oscar, I thought they were well-written too. He creates some solid characters.

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  6. Oh, I know just what you mean, Prashant, about reading the same author or book twice. Sometimes a book or author stays with you in that way. And this book really does sound compelling!

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    1. Margot, I used to read the same author back to back. Not anymore. Now I kind of find it boring, perhaps because I have since discovered hundreds of new writers in various genres.

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  7. Funny, I was just reading about this author on Tracy's blog, though a very different book. It'll be interesting to hear what you think of this one.

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    1. Moira, I recall reading a review of an Estleman book on Tracy's blog. I discovered the author after I took to blogging and he hasn't been the only one. Even if I read the book, I'm not sure when I'll be reviewing it.

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  8. Oh, neat! There's a famous hangman of the Old West that died near where I live, and I got caught up reading articles about him one day. I would be very interested in this.

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    1. Kelly, I like Estleman's writing style, which keeps me absorbed in his stories. I hope I find the time to review it soon,

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  9. Well, both you and Tracy K have written profiles of Estelman so I can take a hint - time to try this author at last! Thanks Prashant!

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    1. Sergio, I have not read his mysteries yet and it's something I'm looking forward to. Estleman is certainly worth reading.

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  10. Estleman’s MOTOR CITY BLUE is near the top of my TBR stack, and I hope to get to it soon.
    I liked what you said about returning to books for the writing. I agree with you about Shaw and would include Orwell for the clarity of the ideas. As for Trollope, I need to find and read his autobiography.

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    1. Elgin, I have read very little of Orwell, except for ANIMAL FARM, so thanks for reminding me. I'm sure you will like Trollope's autobiography.

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  11. I'll be reading more from the author, but not this, cheers.

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    1. Col. I was intrigued by the storyline, hence I bought this particular ebook. I don't think I have read about hangmen in the Wild West.

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  12. You can't go wrong with any of Loren D. Estleman's books. I prefer his mysteries, but his westerns are very good, too.

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    1. Absolutely, George. I like the intensity he brings to his prose.

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  13. This sounds interesting. Dark though. What a career path to go into! All of which give it that pull for the reader. Thank you for bringing it to our attention Prashant.

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    1. Rebecca, you are welcome. I plan to read more by Estleman.

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