REVIEW: ‘Lucky Billy’ rolls snake eyes

book cover of Lucky BillyOne 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: