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Parker wrote 68 mystery and western novels before he died in 2010; now screenwriter Knott continues Parker's popular Virgil Cole series of gritty westerns featuring Parker's two signature western characters: lawmen-for-hire Cole and Everett Hitch. Knott, however, cannot match Parker's sharp style and careful blend of action, suspense, and dialogue, producing instead a melodramatic hayburner with a high body count and low excitement. Following Parker's Blue-Eyed Devil, Virgil and Everett are now territorial U.S. marshals riding a train through the Indian Territories. When a white outlaw gang holds up a train, bullets fly, bodies drop, and female hostages are taken. The steely-eyed, cold-blooded marshals vow to save everyone and "rid this train of these thieves." After a drawn-out gun battle, the few surviving robbers escape with the hostages but not what they were really after. Virgil, Everett, a steady town constable, and a deadly Choctaw pursue the gang, leading to a predictable, sappy showdown in an abandoned mining camp. Knott sticks to Parker's portrayals of Virgil and Everett as hard-boiled, badge-toting gunmen whose simple solution to every problem is to shoot everybody in sight, but the result is a disappointing knockoff of a previously successful western series. Agent: Helen Brann, The Helen Brann Agency. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
Since Robert B. Parker's death, various authors have tried to revive his Spenser and Jesse Stone mystery series with decidedly mixed results. Knott, who adapted the movie version of Parker's Appaloosa, does better with the author's western series starring maverick lawmen Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch. The pair's latest assignment seems routine enough: escort some Mexican prisoners from Texas to the border. That part goes fine, but on the return trip, the train is hijacked by a band of desperadoes led by the notorious Bloody Bob Brandice, with whom Virgil has some history. Turns out the governor of Texas is on the train with his wife, daughters, and $500,000. Echoing Elmore Leonard's Hombre (1961), Knott throws Cole and Hitch into one of those existential situations typical of the best westerns. Trouble arrives out of nowhere, and it's up to the guys with the quickest wits and fastest guns to get out of it. Knott may not quite catch the staccato beat of Cole and Hitch's understated dialogue, but the plot careers along just fine, nicely augmented by the wealth of nineteenth-century railroad detail.--Ott, Bill Copyright 2010 Booklist