David Cranmer’s series characters Cash Laramie and Gideon Miles, two US Marshals doling out justice the old west, have taken on a life of their own. Socially conscious and historically revisionist, the Laramie/Miles stories merge a sensitivity to human rights issues with the time honored tradition of pulp western action. In addition to Cranmer, several writers have taken Laramie and/or Miles out for a spin, one of them being a long-time favorite here at Pulp Serenade, Heath Lowrance (who I interviewed here). Lowrance has a new Gideon Miles novella, The Axeman of Storyville, which I’m very excited to read. In honor of its release, I decided to revisit his first Gideon Miles story, Miles to Little Ridge.
Gideon Miles, a black US Marshal, finds himself in a sleepy Montana town on assignment to bring back a man for trial. The man, it turns out, is a respected widower looking after his daughter. The sheriff, who doesn’t try to hide his racist leanings, refuses to help Miles. Meanwhile, an outlaw Miles crossed paths with years before recognizes him and is bloodthirsty for revenge. With three parties against him, Miles has his hands full as he tries to complete his mission.
A nasty sheriff whose racism takes precedence over even the law, a fugitive with a pitchfork and a family protect, and an axe-wielding Swede whose partner-in-crime has his own secrets he’s afraid to let out—Lowrance populates his book with realistic characters of both thought and action. Their motivations propel the story forward, giving it both momentum, impact, and conviction. Even within the space of a short novelette, it is evident that Lowrance is a dynamic storyteller with great feelings for both people and action. He's a damn fine Western writer.