April 1, 2011

Adult Readers' Advisory Annotation #5: Western

Title:  Night Hawk
Author: Stephen Overholser
Publisher: Leisure Books 
Publication Date: 2007
Page Count: 272
Genre: Western 
Source: Library

I've never read a western before, but I decided to give Night Hawk a try after my Reader's Advisory textbook described it as a character-driven Western. I generally enjoy most character-driven novels, so I picked this one up.

Night Hawk is a coming-of-age story set on a nineteenth-century Colorado ranch called Circle L. It tells the story of a scrawny kid who was booted off the train in Coalton, Colorado. Everyone thinks the kid is trouble. But Ty, the ramrod of the Circle L ranch, decides to hire the kid and take him under his wing. The kid refused to provide his real name, so he comes to be known as "Night Hawk."

The kid is aggressive and argumentative, and he has a foul mouth. Ty doesn't give up on him, though - he keeps giving him chance after chance. When the sheriff receives notice that a young man is wanted for murder, everyone immediately suspects the kid.

While Westerns are not my favorite genre, I do think Western readers will enjoy this well-written novel. It has a lot of characteristics fans of the genre look for - descriptions of the land and terrain and the difficulties of the harsh landscape, a strong sense of time and place, and spare dialogue rich in jargon. Even those who typically don't like Westerns may enjoy Night Hawk as a character-centered coming-of-age tale.


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