One of my fellow Library Thing members (Kasthu) wrote that she got to page 29 of this novel by John Vernon before giving up in frustration. I’m afraid I wasn’t even that successful: Page 19 was the breaking point for me.
And it’s a darn shame, because I sure wanted to like this book. I love history, and I love stories about cowboys and the Old West, but this book manages to turn one of the most thrilling legends of American folklore into a dry, confusing, mundane tale.
As a rule, I don’t mind POV changes within a book, but it needs to be done well. The shifts should be clearly noted, and there should be enough of a difference in tone between the various “voices” to make it easy for the reader to adjust. The first two chapters alternate a third-person omniscient narrator with a first-person narrator, and it. Just. Doesn’t. Work. I get that those Old West fellas were laconic cowboy types, but Sheriff Pat Garrett seems to be on tranquilizers.
It was the sheriff’s chapter that did me in, sadly: He was describing to some barmates what Billy the Kid (his former pal turned nemesis) was really like, and it just about put me to sleep. Somehow, I don’t think that’s the intended effect when you’re talking about one of the most notorious outlaws of the Wild Wild West.
I guess I’ll just stick with Marty Robbins’ classic song version of the “Billy the Kid” story: