Tuesday, November 30, 2021

The Texas Job - Reavis Z. Wortham


I’m still not entirely sure whether to call Reavis Wortham’s The Texas Job a standalone novel or a prequel to his Red River series because, really, I can see it qualifying as either. The novel’s main character is Texas Ranger Tom Bell who, as an old man, plays a prominent role in The Right Side of Wrong, the third book in the Red River series. That book is set in the mid-sixties when Bell proves that he still has a lot of fight in him despite his retirement from the Rangers. The Texas Job, on the other hand, brings Bell up into East Texas from down on the southern border in 1931 and gives readers the chance to see what he was capable of in his prime. 


Tom Bell is only in Pine Top at all because he believes that the murderer from down in south Texas he’s been tracking may be hiding there. But even before he makes it all the way to the newly created shanty town, Bell - with considerable help from a young boy he meets on the trail — stumbles upon the remains of a woman whose dead body had apparently been hidden there days earlier. As a harbinger of things to come, Bell soon finds himself in a shootout even before he can make his way to local law enforcement officers to report what he’s found.


Pine Top, you see, is more boomtown than it is shanty town. Oil has recently been discovered in East Texas and the area is overrun by hundreds and hundreds of men and women looking to make a quick buck out of the discovery. That not all of them are concerned about making that money legally, is an understatement. The people who should be becoming rich, the ones who own the land on top of the oil, are in more danger than they realize. They are sitting on top of the kind of fortune people can only dream about, and some in town are willing to kill to get their hands on it. Tom Bell has no idea what he’s just ridden into, but he’s about to find out.


Bottom Line: It is always easy to get caught up in the historical period during which Reavis Wortham sets his crime novels, but this one is especially fun for readers curious about what a Depression Era oil boomtown must have been like in the day. Unsurprisingly, it was much the same as the gold mining boomtowns most of us are probably more familiar with, and Wortham captures all the inevitable chaos, greed, recklessness, and lawlessness common to this kind of race to get rich before others beat you to it. The Texas Job is a version of the classic tale in which a lone lawman rides into a corrupt town and, with the help of a few good townspeople, does everything he can to clean up the mess he finds there. It may be a classic formula, but Wortham is a good storyteller, and he handles it well.


Reavis Z. Wortham

Review Copy provided by Poisoned Pen Press

Expected Date of Publication: February 15, 2022

11 comments:

  1. That boomtown setting does make me want to give this one a read. :D

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    1. Those boomtowns can be dangerous places for sure because of the way they spring up and the kind of people they attract. It happens even today, though. Much of North Dakota turned into one big boomtown when the oil industry suddenly moved back into the state in a big way just a few years ago. The locals were not happy once the newness of all that money being spent in town wore off.

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    2. That was pretty crazy in North Dakota! I hear the boom's dropped off again up there.

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  2. A good storyteller can make all the difference, even if the plot is pretty standard. Actually, we all seem to be drawn to classic formulas if the characters catch our interest.

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    1. Absolutely true, Jen. There are only so many basic story lines out there, but the best writers can tell those stories in many different ways. Wortham is a good storyteller, although I do enjoy his Red River books more than this one. But that's probably only because I'm so familiar now with the continuing characters in those.

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  3. When I think of boomtown I remember the movie McCabe and Mrs. Miller. That flick stuck with me and this sounds like a book that would do the same.

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    1. I'd forgotten all about that old movie, but you're exactly right. Anything is possible in a boomtown atmosphere...never a dull moment. Authors must really enjoy working in that kind of setting.

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  4. I have to recommend this one to my husband. It the kind of thing that he - Texan that he is - enjoys reading.

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    1. It's a straightforward story about good guys vs. bad guys, Dorothy. I do like them a little more complicated than this generally, but Wortham is a really good storyteller and I found myself caught up in all the action as I neared the end.

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  5. I've got this in my queue, so I appreciated reading your take on it. I really like Wortham's writing.

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    1. I still like the Red River books better than this one, Cathy, but it was fun to get the backstory on Ranger Tom Bell.

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