Michael Chandler’s Kincade’s Blood is an entertaining read, a fast-moving adventure tale firmly ensconced in the gunfighter/knight-errant tradition. The title character is something of a paladin who seems to be on two parallel paths—one being his own inner drive to find out who he is, what his destiny is, and—having been raised by an old Indian who knew more than he, but revealed little, about his early life—his unknown-to-him “secret” that is cryptically linked to a scar someone carved into his arm and a beaded leather patch given to him by the Indian before they parted ways. The other path is pressed upon him as an adversary’s aggression makes it clear that only one of them will survive a showdown that someday must surely happen. Kincade’s life quest becomes an odyssey of sorts, as his trail takes him into the lives of others with restlessness of their own, and comes full circle as his encounters become ever more entwined with those of friends and foes, until at last there comes a final, climactic denouement in Tombstone, complete with surprise twist.

Chandler has a fine narrative talent for making a story move along crisply. This is a very traditional western, with a hero drawn from the both-guns-blazing school of story-telling. The action takes you north to Montana and south to southern Arizona. It has violence, but no prurience or salaciousness. The characters are human, with human weaknesses and desires, but the author indulges no tawdriness in his account. In that regard, it is a story much like the Western-hero-driven pulps of generations ago. Kincade is no squeaky-clean Red Ryder, but he is a Code-minded upholder of right and defender of the weak.

The author sprinkles in many picturesque phrases and Westernisms that are memorable and apt. He shows knowledge of the West and a savviness in the ways of the frontier, whether in the rugged outdoors or the rough-and-tumble barroom life. His protagonist is intriguing as an observer of his contemporaries. Chandler writes: “Whiskey Pete learned that Kincade loved a good saloon, even if the one in the camp was no more than a weather-beaten tent. Not so much for the golden tequila Kincade preferred, but because of what Kincade learned about others, and himself, once inside. Whiskey Pete learned that whenever Kincade found himself among people, he would stay back and intently ‘listen.’ Not just ot the words being spoken, but to what wasn’t being said. ‘It’s in their eyes,’ he would say. ‘It’s always in their eyes.’ Kincade could literally take measure of men, absorb everything around him, learning, testing, weighing, taking in what could be used to advantage later, and discarding what couldn’t, all by looking into their eyes. It was what Kincade called ‘the Wait.’ ”

For more information on the novel from its publisher, visit www.pelicanpub.com.

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