Book Review: Cloudy in the West

Some reviews are easier to write than others. This one could be very simple.

Elmer Kelton

Western novel

’Nuff said

However, I’ll give you a bit more. “Cloudy in the West” is Kelton’s 1997 novel, a book that takes place in 1885, deep in Texas. Our protagonist is a 12-year-old boy, Joey Shipman, who loses his father to what only can be considered mysterious circumstances. Fearing the same fate at the hand of his stepmother and uncle, Joey decides he has a much better chance of seeing his 13th birthday if he leaves. So he does. But there’s a lot of money involved, and if Joey’s dead, it goes to people who think it’s worth killing for.

Joey hooks up with his only known kin, Beau Shipman — his uncle and a drunk. Along the way, they share the trail with a prostitute, an outlaw and a wise old sheepherder (is there any other kind?), and they each help Joey along.

It’s a fast-paced Kelton tale and a fun one to read. The characters are rich, and the story has enough twists and turns to make it interesting. I recommend the book.

A couple of notes. First, I just finished reading Cheryl Pierson’s “Ride the Wild Range,” which has an orphaned preteen as the protagonist, and both books remind me of Huck from my Brock Clemons series, a young man who was also a preteen orphan. I find the challenges these young men face, having to grow up quickly under trying circumstances, fascinating. If you know of other books like this, please send me a note.

Second, I picked this book up from the used book rack (50 cents) at the Lone Pine Film History Museum. I visited there recently doing some research for my next novel and thought, I’ll just reach in and grab a book, and whichever one it is, I’ll read it. Fortune smiled on me. By the way — the Lone Pine Film Festival takes place here the first week of October. I am honored to be speaking on “Writing a Western in the Twenty-First Century,” and I couldn’t be more excited.

Last note: I have a paperback copy of the book and am happy to mail it to the first person who asks.


Three horseshoes

One Comment on “Book Review: Cloudy in the West

Bryan Pears
August 6, 2018 at 12:26 pm

I would love a copy but I live in the UK😞 and imagine the postage would be too much


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