Outlaw Heroes has been in my Kindle a long time, since about November 2013. I have a feeling I picked it up as a special offer – kindle free days or similar. Those were the days! It is definitely a middle grade read. Whilst I enjoyed it, it confirms I’ve grown out of middle grade after twelve or so years in it!
It’s also my O for the A to Z Challenge. How are you getting on with that this year?
by Deanna Lynn Sletten
Will Long loves the old west, especially the escapades of the famous outlaws, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. For a twelve-year-old boy who has recently lost his father and is now dealing with the new man in his mother’s life, his interest in these long-ago outlaws is a much needed escape from reality. When Will and his mother leave their home in Fargo, North Dakota on an Amtrak train trip to visit his great-grandmother in Spokane, Washington, he suddenly finds himself on an even greater adventure than a family reunion. Jolted awake in the middle of the night, he finds himself on an old-fashioned train that is being robbed by none other than Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid! After being recruited by Butch to help out with the robbery, Will takes off with them believing he is on the adventure of a lifetime. But when a bank robbery goes sour, Will realizes that the outlaw life isn’t as exciting and glamorous as he’d thought.
The story takes Will on adventures around the United States, from the Tipton, Wyoming train robbery to the Winnemucca, Nevada bank robbery; down to Fort Worth, Texas where the gang members wintered, and all the way up to New York City where they plan to leave for South America to go straight. Will meets the soft-spoken, lovely schoolmarm, Miss Etta Place, who is also Sundance’s wife, along with other members of the famed Hole-in-the-Wall gang. And after all his travels, he learns a family secret that no one knew about for decades. [goodreads]
The blurb caught my attention originally when I was still a fan of Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid (the film). The book sounded fun, which in a way it was. I was a little confused by the set-up: I was never sure whether Will was the boy or his grandfather telling the story to the boy. One way or another, his friends doubt that a knife in his possession could ever have belonged to the Sundance Kid.
In a translocation that might be a dream or might be an out of body experience, or even a case of time travel, Will arrives in the past just as Butch Cassidy and the Hole in the Wall gang attack his train. I gather that in American history this is synonymous with the Wild Bunch, but that has different connotations to me.
For anyone who knows the film, much of what follows is easily pictured. In a case of rewriting the script, Ms Sletten neatly (or not so neatly at times) inserts Will into Butch, Sundance & Etta’s lives. He even goes along with them on the next raid. It’s nicely imagined, but clunky that Will keeps telling them what they should do–or did–because he’s word-perfect on all their history. Surely a boy of that age would realise that he just should keep his mouth shut about their future.
Another thing felt clunky–something I saw a great deal with books around 2013: the inability to distinguish between reigns and reins. In this book we go the whole horse (rather than hog) and have it wearing a bridal, too. A bridal gown, perhaps? There was another laughable mistake but I can’t remember what. By now the author may have realised the error and made amends.
She eventually wraps up the story with an awakening in the present, with no time elapsed (other than a good snooze). And finishes with a slick explanation of how the family heirloom arrived in Will’s possession. Good clean fun, which will entertain the younger generation. That means those who didn’t grow up on Butch and Sundance in the cinema.
How’s my Camp NaNoFinMo doing?
You’ll remember I writing (or aiming to finish) Zanzibar’s Rings (Viridian System #3) this month. By now I should have written more than 55,000 words. See how I’m doing in the footer bar at the bottom.