The Ghost writes on. Wonderfully.

WITH THESE HANDS

The final volume in a series of four posthumous titles (Beyond the Great Snow Mountains, 1999, etc.) collecting tales never before published in book form, many in genres we don’t associate with the Western writer.

L’Amour (1908–88) came from pioneer stock and traced his family back to 1600. Before committing fully to a writing career in his mid-’30s, he led a vastly adventurous life. He sailed around the globe, was shipwrecked in the West Indies and stranded in the Mojave Desert, worked as a miner, lumberjack, cattle skinner, carnival barker, elephant handler, and a boxer (winning 51 of 59 fights); during WWII, he served as an officer in the Transportation Corps. Included herein is the ferocious boxing saga “Gloves for a Tiger,” the second short story he sold. Also here are the wrap-ups for a number of early series clearly from his pulp days, although no provenance is given for any story. (Those interested can turn to louislamour.com for more information.) L’Amour is still finding his voice in many of these fictions, which echo genre styles of the day. For instance, in “Corpse on the Carpet,” his lengthy LA thriller about detective-to-be Kip Morgan: “She was sitting just around the curve of the bar, a gorgeous package of a girl, all done up in a gray tailored suit.” It’s pulp, but it’s catchy pulp; flurries like “I’d thrown my Sunday punch and all I got was rebound” keep readers lost in a hardboiled, lobster-bright time-warp filled with phrasings now as formal and stately as harpsichord notes from an 18th-century drawing room (“I whipped my right up into his solar plexus”). The lone Western, “Six-Gun Stampede,” is voiced in that “Anyways, I’m just fixin’ dinner” coziness. Far stronger is the title story, a Jack London–ish man-against-nature classic, telling of an oil company executive crashing in the Arctic wastes.

The Ghost writes on. Wonderfully.

Pub Date: May 7, 2002

ISBN: 0-553-80273-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Bantam

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2002

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Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of...

FIREFLY LANE

Lifelong, conflicted friendship of two women is the premise of Hannah’s maudlin latest (Magic Hour, 2006, etc.), again set in Washington State.

Tallulah “Tully” Hart, father unknown, is the daughter of a hippie, Cloud, who makes only intermittent appearances in her life. Tully takes refuge with the family of her “best friend forever,” Kate Mularkey, who compares herself unfavorably with Tully, in regards to looks and charisma. In college, “TullyandKate” pledge the same sorority and major in communications. Tully has a life goal for them both: They will become network TV anchorwomen. Tully lands an internship at KCPO-TV in Seattle and finagles a producing job for Kate. Kate no longer wishes to follow Tully into broadcasting and is more drawn to fiction writing, but she hesitates to tell her overbearing friend. Meanwhile a love triangle blooms at KCPO: Hard-bitten, irresistibly handsome, former war correspondent Johnny is clearly smitten with Tully. Expecting rejection, Kate keeps her infatuation with Johnny secret. When Tully lands a reporting job with a Today-like show, her career shifts into hyperdrive. Johnny and Kate had started an affair once Tully moved to Manhattan, and when Kate gets pregnant with daughter Marah, they marry. Kate is content as a stay-at-home mom, but frets about being Johnny’s second choice and about her unrealized writing ambitions. Tully becomes Seattle’s answer to Oprah. She hires Johnny, which spells riches for him and Kate. But Kate’s buttons are fully depressed by pitched battles over slutwear and curfews with teenaged Marah, who idolizes her godmother Tully. In an improbable twist, Tully invites Kate and Marah to resolve their differences on her show, only to blindside Kate by accusing her, on live TV, of overprotecting Marah. The BFFs are sundered. Tully’s latest attempt to salvage Cloud fails: The incorrigible, now geriatric hippie absconds once more. Just as Kate develops a spine, she’s given some devastating news. Will the friends reconcile before it’s too late?

Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of poignancy.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-312-36408-3

Page Count: 496

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2007

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Above-average formula fiction, making full display of the author’s strong suits: sense of place, compassion for characters...

TRUE COLORS

Female rivalry is again the main preoccupation of Hannah’s latest Pacific Northwest sob saga (Firefly Lane, 2008, etc.).

At Water’s Edge, the family seat overlooking Hood Canal, Vivi Ann, youngest and prettiest of the Grey sisters and a champion horsewoman, has persuaded embittered patriarch Henry to turn the tumbledown ranch into a Western-style equestrian arena. Eldest sister Winona, a respected lawyer in the nearby village of Oyster Shores, hires taciturn ranch hand Dallas Raintree, a half-Native American. Middle sister Aurora, stay-at-home mother of twins, languishes in a dull marriage. Winona, overweight since adolescence, envies Vivi, whose looks get her everything she wants, especially men. Indeed, Winona’s childhood crush Luke recently proposed to Vivi. Despite Aurora’s urging (her principal role is as sisterly referee), Winona won’t tell Vivi she loves Luke. Yearning for Dallas, Vivi stands up Luke to fall into bed with the enigmatic, tattooed cowboy. Winona snitches to Luke: engagement off. Vivi marries Dallas over Henry’s objections. The love-match triumphs, and Dallas, though scarred by child abuse, is an exemplary father to son Noah. One Christmas Eve, the town floozy is raped and murdered. An eyewitness and forensic evidence incriminate Dallas. Winona refuses to represent him, consigning him to the inept services of a public defender. After a guilty verdict, he’s sentenced to life without parole. A decade later, Winona has reached an uneasy truce with Vivi, who’s still pining for Dallas. Noah is a sullen teen, Aurora a brittle but resigned divorcée. Noah learns about the Seattle Innocence Project. Could modern DNA testing methods exonerate Dallas? Will Aunt Winona redeem herself by reopening the case? The outcome, while predictable, is achieved with more suspense and less sentimental histrionics than usual for Hannah.

Above-average formula fiction, making full display of the author’s strong suits: sense of place, compassion for characters and understanding of family dynamics.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-312-36410-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2008

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