The first volume of Edward Grainger’s Cash Laramie and Gideon Miles stories was one of the books of 2011 for me so when I heard he was graciously turning over his carefully crafted, and obviously well-loved, characters to another writer I was pretty surprised. It’s a bold move, one which most writers are far too territorial to consider – respectful touch of the hat brim to Mr Grainger. As an experiment it stands or falls on the ability of the author and Grainger has made a fine choice in Heath Lowrance, an established cult writer with his own weird western series in the offing from Trestle Press.
Miles to Little Ridge is a brisk, action-packed novella following African-American US Marshall Gideon Miles as he attempts to bring a suspect in for trial. The man, Gantry, is a reformed character when we meet him, eeking out a living and a trying to bring up his young daughter on a few acres of dusty scrub; nothing like the bad guy you expect. The actual bad guys are neatly subverted too, small time lowlifes whose relationship is underscored with an intriguing homoerotic frisson.
This is a strongly written novella and fans of the earlier Cash Laramie and Gideon Miles stories will find it fits perfectly into the cannon. Lowrance plays on Grainger’s pitch – it’s the same, raw, hard world, suffused with brutality and prejudice – and he respects the rules of the game, but reading Miles to Little Ridge is like watching a new manager take over a team you know well and guide them to a win using his own tactics.
It’s going to be interesting seeing where Grainger takes the series from here – you feel that after making the leap this can’t possibly be a standalone – and with the wealth of talent in the western genre right now he won’t be short on potential contributors.