When I was younger, my favorite Back to the Future movie was the third one. Some of my favorite memories with my father are weekends where there would be one of the many spaghetti westerns on television. High Plain Drifter, The Good The Bad & The Ugly, Two Mules for Sister Sara, Support Your Local Gunfighter/Sheriff. I enjoyed watching them with him. When I was really young, I would sit and listen as my mom read The Little House on the Prairie and the following novels to my sister. So it’s really kind of perplexing to me why I never fell into western novels as I got older.
Originally I was going to read something that was considered a western classic, Riders of the Purple Sage or something along those lines. And then I found Glorious sitting on the shelf. Having spent a decent portion of my life living a short drive away from Saint Louis, the fact that the novel started there and followed its main character Cash McLendon as he made mistakes in Saint Louis that drove him out to the frontier territory in Arizona made me decide to pick it up instead. McLendon isn’t really a sympathetic character. Throughout the novel, he’s greedy, selfish, and ignorant. He’s probably one of the most realistic and fleshed out characters I’ve read in a novel. He easily could have been part of the cast of villains had the novel been written from Sheriff Joe Saint’s point of view in place of McLendon’s.
McLendon, however, does become a better person by the end of the novel. Not by much, but just enough that you don’t hate him, even though he’s still naive for all his social skill. It’s this character growth that makes me at least interested in the followup novel, Buffalo Trail.
The plot is mostly about McLendon trying to escape the trouble he found in Saint Louis and his attempts to pick up from where he left off with a girl he had known and spurned. He doesn’t end up getting the girl in the end, and actually manages to find a proxy for the rich man in Saint Louis that he pissed off, and manages to equal piss off the rich owner who’s trying to push all the town founders out of Glorious so that he can become rich when the town booms because of a silver find. Most of the events throughout the novel seem to revolve around Cash alternately endearing himself to and pissing off different people. All of the actual action comes through in the final act.
In the last fifty some odd pages, it seems like there is no hope for our protagonist and his friends. Right up to the last few pages, in fact, things feel hopeless for them. Then Guinn sets off the loaded gun from the first act of the play. The god descends from the machine. Everyone is saved. Except for Cash McLendon. He has to flee again.
It’s not exactly what I was expecting from a western novel. There were no extended gun fights. The Apache threat in the novel is a product of the main antagonist’s plot. The protagonist doesn’t even know how to ride a horse or shoot a gun. He rides off into the sunset, technically, but not with the girl on his horse. It was an entertaining read, and the pages flew by. I just had different expectations from what the story told. Eventually, I’ll probably pick up Buffalo Trail. But I’m not eagerly awaiting its release later this year.