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The Coming of the Kid Book Review

The Coming of the Kid by Oakley Hall

This book is an astounding achievement. Oakley Hall has distilled the pure essence of the American western into a rollicking, riotous tumbleweed epic. It's one of those stories where every line is a treasure to read, each sentence crafted with a rough poetry perfectly balanced. He describes a landscape of elemental figures, the details pared down to only the most essential notions. It's not the florid savagery of Cormac McCarthy or the folksy philosophical utility of Larry McMurtry, but somewhere in the middle, a more refined version of western mythology that pays tribute to the full range of America's storytelling legacy, from the early idealism of Roy Rogers and the Lone Ranger to the vicious cynicism of The Wild Bunch. The latter part of the book suffers somewhat, becoming bogged down with bringing all the characters together and arriving at a rather labored and unorthodox resolution, but the first half is so perfectly constructed it doesn't matter. I still re-read the individual chapters (Henry Plummer, J.D. Dockerty), each time just as good as the last. I wonder why this book never found a large audience. Maybe it was too abstract for the western genre. Oakley Hall's most famous book is Warlock, which is a fine story, but more restrained, lacking the pure rustic eloquence he achieved with this one. I heartily recommend. If you want a sample, search out his short story Horseman, which ended up becoming chapter 3 in this book

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