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Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Charles Ray's Frontier Justice: The Story of Bass Reeves, Deputy U.S Marshal [Book Review]

Bass Reeves knows the land they call Indian Territory in Arkansas as well as the surrounding areas. And because of this, Reeves is given a job as US Marshal by Judge Fagan. Only thing is, Reeves can't read nor write. Reeves was born into slavery and slaves weren't allowed to learn to read or write. He was to become a run away slave after roughing up his master up a bit over a card game. Bass hid in Indian Territory among the Indians until he knew things were safe enough for him to carry on his way. He would make a life for himself and his family by cultivating a farm.

Fagan has hired Reeves as a US Marshal (or Marshall) to serve warrants to a few outlaws, but with Reeves not being able to read this might be an issue. At least to Fagan. Reeves explains to Fagan that he has a great memory and if Fagan reads the warrants to Reeves he'll be able to do his job. Fagan tests Reeves by reading a warrant to him in which Reeves repeats all the details back to Fagan. With this, Fagan is satisfied and sends Reeves on his way to get his men.

I have to say, after writing that summary, it sounds better than what the book really was.

I'm not a fan of old west books, but wanted to open my mind and give one a shot. I think I should have kept my mind shut.

The book was filled with unnecessary details. When Ray describes Fagan's office he goes into great details. Down to describing exactly where the large map of Arkansas was hanging in his office. I'm not one for details like that. I don't need to know the thread count in the rug or the shape of the desk legs (exaggerating here, of course, about the thread count and such). All I need to know is that "Fagan sat in a high backed chair that placed him in front of his large wooden desk. Fagan motioned for Reeves to sit in the chair placed before the desk". More details were given to the facial hair everyone had, their brows and how they formed to make certain facial expressions. I think saying "he had a look of anger" or "he looked at Reeves with a curious face" would have sufficed. I made up those lines to make a point.

The other thing that turned me off was the history of the land. Wherever Reeves went to look for the outlaws, the history of the land was given. I felt like I was in school and had to read this book for an assignment. Again, I feel the history of the land could have been incorporated into the story telling. I think this has to do with my short attention span. While I was reading the over abundant of details provided along with the history lessons, I kept thinking about the movie Mozart when Mozart, played by Tom Hulce, is being told by Emperor Joseph II, played by Jeffrey Jones, that his music has too many notes:

I tried hard to overlook the amount of details written but it became too cumbersome at times. The reading, thus, became non enjoyable, at least for me and I really wanted to like this book. After reading I wanted to be excited about reading another book set in the old west, but I think I'll hold off a little longer before I give it a shot again.

I wouldn't write off this book for others at all. It's a short book of 253 pages. If you want to read about a man who chased outlaws in the old west, you might want to give this a try. The reason I say this is because what I think is not law. I'm a book reviewer - I review books. Good or bad, I review them.

I tried to like it because it is a historical fiction book, but, as mentioned already, the details and history lessons kept me from doing so.

The book did open my eyes to Bass Reeves and now I'm interested in learning more about him.

If you read the book and have a different take, please let me know. I may have a change of heart after hearing your take on it.

UPDATED 15 NOV 2017 I decided to read a sample of another old west book to see if it was just this particular I reviewed that I didn't like, or old west genre in general, I don't like. I now know it's the genre I don't like. I can watch a western, but I just can't read about it.
Frontier Justice: The Story of Bass Reeves, Deputy U.S Marshal 

Author: Charles Ray
Publisher: Uhuru Press
Pages: 253
Release Date: 1 February 2014
Where To Buy: Amazon

You can read about Bass Reeves on the Legends of America site.

Bass Reeves

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