A tall, broad-shouldered, muscular man “who sat a horse easily,” protagonist Reuben Braddock works to keep law and order in a “firm but fair-minded” way in the classic, skillfully written but somewhat predictable western novel Lawman’s Dilemma.
In the wilds of the Sierra Mountains, Braddock, “known as an honest lawman, a fast gun with a conscience,” is as good as they come at what he does, but he thinks surely there’s more to life than notches in the grip of his gun. Settling down is beginning to look good to Reuben; he dreams of having a peaceful life and finding a good woman. He found one once, a woman named Willa, but he let her get away because when a town asks for his help, he answers, just as his father and grandfather did before him. It’s in his blood, and it’s the dilemma of his life.
After tending to outlaw Jasper Chase in Whispering Springs, he has a request to settle trouble in his hometown, Elder Creek, Nevada, where gunfighter Vance Wagner and his gang dominate the town with a protection racket. This is big trouble and serious business, but Braddock finds comfort and hope for his dream with another love interest: Maria Vasquez. Will he make a mess of this possibility, too?
With a sure hand, author Ray Bilderback delivers the reader through to the final pages with full measures of justice and injustice, killing, remorse and goodness. The events and characterizations aren’t unexpected, but Bilderback’s writing skills in terms of language, tone, imagery, honesty and civility make up for the predictability. This is pure storytelling, simply, sparsely and elegantly revealed.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.