I decided I wasn’t quite ready to leave the world of Leadville, Colorado, so when I looked up Iron Ties by Ann Parker and saw that the ebook price was only $2.51 I bought it and started reading. Reading this one closely mirrored my experience of the first. I found that the story itself wasn’t what most interested me. Parker is competent at crafting a mystery, but not necessarily one that truly grabs me. (A personal taste thing.)
What she is excellent at is creating believable characters and evoking a distinct sense of place and time. And it’s that latter that keeps me absorbed in the books.
Parker also did a great job of incorporating the aftermath of the Civil War in this one. It’s far enough in the country’s past now that it’s easy to forget that the end of the war left raw, gaping wounds in the people who lived through it, on both sides. I’m not a Civil War buff, but I did find that aspect quite interesting, primarily because it’s rarely discussed.
Again Inez was an intriguing protagonist. She’s often self-righteous, which then comes across as hypocrisy given her occupation and extra-curricular activities. She’s complex, not always likable, but interesting to read about.
After I finished that one I was ready to leave Parker’s Leadville, but not necessarily the Old West. Bella Books was having a sale on select books, and one of them was the ebook edition for an old favorite of mine, The Long Trail by Penny Hayes. So I bought a copy for my Kindle and read it.
The Long Trail was originally published in 1986 and was one of the early volumes in my very small, but growing, lesbian library. It’s a story of two women in a tiny town in Texas, not long after the Civil War, who are incredibly unlikely to become friends, but do anyway. Not yet realizing they’d been falling in love, they decide to leave their town and make their way back East. Which makes this sort of a reverse of the usual story, in which the intrepid characters head out on a long trail west.
Because the book has a special place in my heart, I tend to overlook the book’s flaws. If I were reading it now for the first time I probably wouldn’t enjoy it nearly as much as I did when I first discovered it. But even with the flaws, the characters are well-drawn and their story is touching and adventurous.
A year ago several of Lawrence Block’s old pulp novels written under the pen name Jill Emerson went on sale for 99 cents each. I bought six of them at the time, and just now finished reading Thirty, which is the third of them I’ve read. (The other two were Threesome, which was excellent, and Enough of Sorrow, which I didn’t think was very good.)
Thirty is a bit of a mixed bag. It’s written in diary format, and is the story of a twenty-nine-year-old housewife who abruptly leaves her husband, moves to Greenwich Village, and embarks on a series of sexcapades.
The writing was very good, with several insightful observations about people and life. But Jan, the woman writing the diary, isn’t that sympathetic. Not that I think she’s intended to be, the purpose for this type of novel was mostly to titillate, and possibly shock, readers.
A nitpicky thing that bugged the heck out of me was Jan using the slang term “balling” to refer to sex. Block has used that in the other books also, and it’s obviously his phrasing sneaking into the narration, rather than a reflection of the character’s speech. It’s a male term, rarely used by women, and even back then I don’t think many men used it either. So it undercuts the female voice of the narration, especially when it’s not just a slang quirk of one character, but used by several different women.
One section was troubling and distasteful, because Jan comes under sway of a predatory, manipulative man, who is also involved with a young girl. The girl is only fifteen in the novel, but he first seduced her when she was twelve. Worse, Jan is also involved with her.
The book is dark, with Jan frequently feeling depressed and suicidal. And it has no ending to speak of, in which the reader can feel some sense of resolution. Instead it just stops on a somber note. Still, I don’t feel like I wasted my time reading it, at least partly because I love reading books written in the time period of the 50s and 60s. (This one was originally published in 1970.)