The Vengeance of Fortuna West, by Ray Hogan

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vengeanceLiterary rating: starstarstar
Kick-butt quotient: action2action2actionhalf

While I haven’t read many Westerns, my wife is an avid fan of the genre, and I know she also admires the strong, brave heroine type of character (so do I –I married one!), so I got her this book for Christmas, and then read it on her recommendation. Fortuna, the protagonist here, is the recent widow of a New Mexico marshal, who gets herself made a deputy in order to go after the outlaws who killed him –not as improbable a quest in her case as it would have been for most women of that era, since he taught her to handle a Colt more proficiently than most males, and she’s a skilled rider, huntress and tracker who once brought down a bear. (Of course, the terrain she has to search is rough, and the killer outlaws aren’t her only jeopardy.)

Hogan has been a prolific Western author, with well over 100 novels and a large body of short fiction to his credit; the sheer volume of his output probably militated against very careful craftsmanship, and his diction here is mediocre. He also gets his details tangled in a few places, and a few notes don’t ring quite psychologically true. But the novel succeeds as well as it does because of the appeal of Fortuna’s character; the plot is straightforward and Hogan’s writing style simple, making for a quick read (it could be read in a single long sitting, and he provides enough action and suspense that a reader might want to) and Fortuna’s need to choose whether she intends to bring her quarry in alive or execute them on the spot gives the story some moral depth. (There is some bad language here –which Hogan explains, through Fortuna’s musings, as a response to stress-and, obviously, some violence, but no sex.)

Author: Ray Hogan
Publisher: Doubleday, available through Amazon, currently only as a printed book.

A version of this review previously appeared on Goodreads.

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