Thursday, 18 January 2018

Merrick by Ben Boulden, 2017

"Thief, gunman, killer. A hero you'll hate, but root for anyway."
 
Every time I watch a movie about a heist or read a story about a robbery at gunpoint, the first thought that comes to my mind is Something’s going to go wrong. In spite of meticulous planning, things don’t always go as intended. That’s exactly what Merrick—a tough outlaw with a conscience and the hero of this fast-paced Western short story by Ben Boulden—finds out when he teams up with an old partner to ambush an armoured wagon in Texas and make away with a $15,000 payroll.


Merrick, who is brought in as a last-minute replacement, is mindful of the risks involved in the venture. He knows by experience that a holdup is never easy, even if the dough is. Though he is reluctant to accept mastermind Clarence Tilley’s offer at first, the .44 Remington wielding outlaw cannot escape the allure of money and the prospect of moving to the California coast and living it up.

But the outlaw’s getaway plan is dashed to the ground when Spider Robison, a particularly vile, greedy and trigger-happy gang member, double-crosses his accomplices, wallops Merrick in the head and decamps with the loot. After regaining consciousness, Merrick sets out to hunt down Robison, not so much to seek revenge as to retrieve his rightful share of the heist and be on his way.

Merrick is not the quintessential Wild West outlaw. He is an outlaw alright but one with scruples, the kind who’d indulge in unlawful acts but probably won’t go beyond a limit. While he can be tough and dangerous, and shoot to defend himself, he also has a certain vulnerability, a sense of fair play and justice, perhaps even compassion, which sets him apart from others of his kind.

All of 25 pages, Merrick is a cracker of a Western story that fans of the genre will enjoy reading. The plot—a stage robbery gone wrong—reminded me of pocket-size black-and-white Western comics I was fond of reading in my youth. I could visualise each scene unfold in the form of a comics panel or frame. In that sense Merrick would make for a very entertaining comic-book.

I hope Ben Boulden—author of Blaze! Red Rock Rampage (15) and Blaze! Spanish Gold (18) in the Blaze! Adult Western Series—casts Merrick in more short stories, perhaps even a novel or two. I’d like to read more about the Utah outlaw’s exploits in the author's crisp narrative style. Recommended.


Available for Kindle, $0.99.

16 comments:

  1. Thanks, Prashant. What a great surprise. I'm fond of Merrick and his .44 Remington. As of now, I'm pretty sure we'll see him riding across the desert again looking for easy money and finding mostly trouble.

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    1. You're most welcome, Ben. I'd like to read a few more short stories about Merrick's exploits though nothing like an engrossing Western novel based on the character.

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  2. Yep, good help is hard to find. Just ask any of Lionel White’s criminal protagonists. Thanks for the review, Prashant.

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    1. You're welcome, Elgin. I have enjoyed reading a couple of Lionel White's caper novels, which are not easily available in secondhand bookshops.

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  3. Sounds good, Prashant. I will check it out.

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    1. Tracy, MERRICK is a good read. Hopefully, it will revive my reading of short stories this year.

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  4. I know what you mean, Prashant, about that 'something is going to go wrong' feeling. I think that adds suspense to a story. And this one sounds like a solid read, too. Glad you enjoyed it.

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    1. Thanks, Margot. It'd be interesting to see how Merrick's character develops after his first outing.

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  5. Nice review Prashant. One to check out.

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  6. Hey, I like Westerns, short or long. Currently reading one of the Blaze novels, I think it's the first, but don't know for sure. Nice review, Prashant.

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    1. Thanks, Oscar. I like reading Westerns too. I thoroughly enjoyed Ben's "Blaze! Red Rock Rampage" and hope to read his second "Blaze! Spanish Gold" soon.

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  7. Glad to know Ben's got another one out. I loved and reviewed Blaze: Red Rock Revenge when it came out, and knew Ben had begun what we're seeing develop into a fine fiction career.

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    1. Mathew, I liked "Blaze! Red Rock Rampage" too and I'm hoping Ben develops "Merrick" into a long series.

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  8. Sounds like my type of story. Nice review, Prashant.

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    1. Oscar, "Merrick" is my type of Western. I like a good gunfight among other elements in the genre.

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