Tag Archives: bigotry

02Nov/18

The Rotten Rancher by Frank W. Butterfield

Frank W. Butterfield was recently a returning guest on WROTE. This prodigious writer has a new novel out, but to find out more about him and get links to all his works, check out Episode 187: My Gay Perry Mason

I rather like this engaging series, with lovable millionaire PI Nick Williams and his hunky sidekick, Carter. Set in the 1950’s, they battle prejudice and bigotry whilst people from all walks of life try to kill them. And despite this, they seem to maintain a surprisingly upbeat approach to life. Of course, money helps, which means Nick really doesn’t give a screw, but he’s a lovely, generous fellow for all that.

The sixteenth book in the series, The Rotten Rancher, reeks of 1950’s America. I was expecting cowboy boots and lariats, but it isn’t quite like that. I can almost smell the gasoline and leather of Nick and Carter’s massive and impractical soft-top as they cruise down Highway 1 to spend some time on the coast, in Nick’s father’s ultra-modern (for the time) cliff top home. You just know it won’t end well.

For a book with a twisty plot, I would have appreciated a bit less tell and and a bit more show. There’s lots of dialogue and some of it kind of gets in the way, causing me to backtrack to remind myself what just happened. That’s really my only niggle.

I can’t fault any of the characters. They were all drawn really well. For a book with a lot of characters, they all seemed relevant and all had a part to play. There was a good sense of atmosphere, sometimes really suspenseful, other times cringeworthy (when one of the characters was spouting their hate, I really wanted to slap them.) The story could also have worked well as a ghost story, and there was a bit of that at the end, which I found slightly confusing when it didn’t seem to go anywhere.

In the end, the book is popcorn entertainment with bite, not shying away from the serious issues of the time (and of now, sadly.) Yes, the plot and dialogue could have been tightened up, which would have given the action a bit more impact, but it was a fun read. Listen to Duayne Eddy when reading it to really get into the mood!

BLURB

Friday, November 11, 1955

It’s Veteran’s Day, and a gorgeous one at that. Parades of flying flags and grizzled old soldiers marching to the tunes of John Philip Souza are definitely in the works.

Meanwhile, Nick and Carter are heading south on Highway 1 for a relaxing week down in Big Sur, just south of beautiful Carmel-By-The-Sea. They’ll be staying at the home of one Dr. Parnell Williams, Nick’s father. It’s a modern sort of thing, made of wood and glass, and perched right on the cliff’s edge with dramatic views of the ocean and the incoming banks of fog.

But when the power goes out late at night and the newly-installed generator kicks on, it’s not long before Carter is dragging a bewildered Nick to the front door because, it turns out, someone intentionally disconnected the vent and the house quickly fills up with deadly carbon monoxide.

As they search for their would-be murderer, Nick and Carter quickly discover all sorts of secrets, hidden away among the verdant valleys and stands of Monterey pines. Secrets that go back twenty years, or more, and stories of wild times that would deeply shock the gawking tourists from Topeka and Des Moines, if they only knew.

Will Nick and Carter uncover the killer before he, or she, strikes again?

To find out, jump into the nearest convertible and follow the narrow, twisting highway that takes you through the land of towering, ancient redwoods and mountains that crash into the bright, blue ocean below.

It’s gonna be a wild ride!

17Nov/17

The Laconic Lumberjack (A Nick Williams Mystery Book 4) by Frank W. Butterfield

Frank W. Butterfield was one our lovely recent guests! To find out more about him and get links to his work, check out Episode 138: It’s All True and Very Silly!

REVIEW

This was an interesting one, the 4th book in a long running series of stories featuring fabulously wealthy P.I. Nick Williams and his partner, Carter. Set in 1953, when bigotry and homophobia were legal and enforced by law, the two men tread a fine line between living their lives as they want to, but always aware their loving relationship could land them in jail.

Having said that, this is a jolly escapade in the main, possibly a little too jolly, considering that Carter’s father has just been murdered in a most grisly way, and a local black man has been arrested as a result. Nick hires a plane forthwith, and off they go to Georgia, where every stereotype of Southern man and woman-kind awaits to cause them all kinds of problems. This wasn’t a bad thing though, because let’s face it, a LOT of people in the 21st century are walking stereotypes.

It’s hard not to like this story, although I ran up against a few niggles that threw me off a bit. The first, and biggest, were the occasions when a character would do or say something, “for some reason.” As a reader and writer, I am always looking for reasons. They don’t need to be immediate or blatant, but they need to be there. Adding nuances to writing can be difficult, especially when there are a lot of characters and different plot lines zinging about, but the phrase would have been better left on the cutting room floor, so that the reader could make their own decision as to what the reason was.

The other niggle, possibly because I’m a curmudgeon, is the uneasy mix of tough subjects (racism, homophobia, murder, lynchings) with the amount of time the characters spent laughing. They all seemed rather too happy. Possibly this was because trust-funded golden boy, Nick, could afford to buy everyone out of trouble. If this makes him sound like a bit of a wanker, he really isn’t. He and Carter are so achingly sweet, especially together, it could make your teeth hurt if you’re in any way a cynic. The sex is fade to black, as it would have been in any respectable 1950’s film, so anyone expecting woody shenanigans will not get them.

Instead, there is a lot of other stuff to enjoy. The plot weaves and ducks and dives. The author throws a lot at them, jail-time for Nick, followed by a  kangaroo court, and inserting him and Carter in with a lot of rufty-tufty lumberjacks to try to weed out the murderer. I looked forward to a woodsaw-related climax, especially after the gory death (off-script) earlier but bearing in mind the novel is 1950-esque, with the restraint, decency and politeness of that era, it’s best to read the book to find out if and when that happens.

On the whole, bar the few hiccups, I enjoyed it. Nick and Carter are engaging, fun and cute, even though people around them keep dropping dead. Readers not wanting sex and too many f-bombs, and who appreciate a sense of decorum as well as humour, will enjoy this retro romp very much indeed.

BLURB

It’s just another Thursday morning in July of 1953 when the doorbell rings at 137 Hartford Street and it’s bad news.

Carter’s father has been murdered in Georgia and the local sheriff has no intention of finding out who really did it.

So, Nick and Carter borrow the first plane that Marnie, Nick’s amazing secretary, can find for them and they zoom off back into the past to see if they can uncover the truth of what really happened before the wrong man is convicted. And, knowing the lay of the land under the moss-covered oaks, Carter is pretty sure that the color of a man’s skin will figure heavily in who takes the fall.

In The Laconic Lumberjack, the best Nick can do is stand by Carter’s side as he confronts an awful past, uncovers some surprising secrets, and deals with the unsavory reality of small-town hypocrisy.

In the end, Nick and Carter discover more about themselves than they ever expected to find.