(I thought I’d take this week and post a brief review of fellow Pen-L author Greg Camp’s book The Willing Spirit. If you like Westerns, I highly recommend this one.)
This is prime Greg Camp.
I can say that because I know the man. I’ve sat in group and listened to him read from various works—including this one—and I’ve read and reviewed his sci-fi/espionage thriller A Draft of Moonlight. I know the caliber of his work, and this is him at the top of his form.
I read Westerns more when I was a teenager, mostly Louis L’Amour. And while Greg’s voice is nothing like L’Amour’s, that doesn’t detract from it. L’Amour wrote in the oral storyteller vein and had a voice that was suited to that. Camp writes with a more educated feel, but his stories are still just as action-filled as any Sackett novel could hope to be.
Henry Dowland, the protagonist, is a Confederate veteran, estranged from his family by a domineering father and from the finer points in life by his war experiences. He carries the ghost of every person he ever killed with him. It’s classic PTSD, even if that term and concept were unknown in those days. These ghosts make him reluctant to kill unless it’s necessary, but when it is necessary, he doesn’t hesitate. He does what needs doing.
In this, The Willing Spirit is a classic Western. But where most of Louis L’Amour’s characters represented the rougher side of life in the 1800s, Henry Dowland is college educated. He knows the classics and can’t help comparing his life to them occasionally. This classic education does nothing to hamper him when quick action is called for.
The Willing Spirit is a well-crafted novel. Not too long, but it has all the story it needs. In fact, there are times when it seems we’re about to start the denouement only to have another twist thrown at us. And even in the midst of one plot, another will pop up, coming from some totally unexpected direction.
I won’t belabor the point. I will simply state it plainly: if you like a good Western, especially one in the classic sense, pick up The Willing Spirit.
What could be wrong with a book blurbed by Heritage and two-time Spur Award winner Dusty Richards?
Nothing. And that’s the joy of it.