I originally read this as a mass-market paperback titled Vigilante. I was just beginning to appreciate westerns at the time. I’m so glad to have found this. I subsequently bought and read the entire Reno series. Most were pretty good but I’m confident this is Morris’ pinnacle in fiction.
Jim Reno is a Confederate veteran, a reformed alcoholic and some-time “gunslick.” He’s also, like so many of us, spiritually lost…unsure how to fill the God-shaped hole in his soul. This is Christian fiction, but not preachy (or wimpy). There is one sermon in the yarn, which lasts for a paragraph of roughly three sentences. Christian characters surround Reno but, while it is no secret what the author believes, he doesn’t sermonize. At his core, Jim Reno is a “good person” who has fallen short of exemplary behavior in his life, and who wants to get right with God, but spends a good portion of this series alternating between running from his Creator and surrendering to Him. Something I can relate to. I haven’t read tons of Christian fiction, but I’ve read enough to be sick of the formulaic conversion of the main character at the end…reciting the sinner’s confession, standing ovation, blah blah blah.
One “bad person” does get saved in this novel, but Morris pulls it off deftly. I was so engrossed in the story I didn’t see it coming.
Morris likes to pepper his tales with romance, too. I do fault him for the way he shuffles love interests in and out of Reno’s life. Between the first and second books in the series, for instance, his happily-ever-after soulmate disappears with no explanation whatsoever, never to be mentioned again. In this one, the love interest Morris spent the entire previous novel priming for Reno is unceremoniously kicked to the curb in lieu of a brand new one.
The plot should be familiar to those who’ve read in the genre, or even watched western movies. A frontier town is at the mercy of lawless, greedy cattle barons and their hired guns. Decent folk band together in an attempt to protect themselves and the innocent, and turn to Jim Reno who has that rare (in reality) combination of a heart of gold and talent for violence. Reno, of course, doesn’t want to get involved, for all the I’m-trying-to-escape-my-violent-past reasons.
Whatever faults I could list here (and believe me: I could nit-pick ANYTHING if I put my mind to it), Boomtown is a great read. It is hard to put down. The bad guys will curl your lip, you will grieve for the victims, cheer for the good guys, and close the back cover with a satisfaction only the great books can give you.
(From the Two-Fisted Blog Archives)