The Samaritan’s Pistol
By Eric Bishop
Jolly Fish Press, 2013
Jim Cooper is a rancher in rural Wyoming, lonely and haunted by a traumatic past in the military but generally happy with his quiet present existence, until he stumbles across a mob hit in progress in his local wilderness and, being both a noble soul and excellent shot, steps in. Now already an enemy of the mafia, Jim finds himself drawn into the would-have-been-dead-man’s plan to steal a truckload of mob money.
The ending is open to the point of feeling incomplete. It’s never made clear how any of the characters are going to avoid mob retribution in the long run, and some points of potential character drama are brought up and then not fully explored. Jim can also get just a little too square-jawed perfect sometimes, never for a moment losing the high ground in morality or competence.
Even while being pelted with maybe one too many reasons why it’s absolutely mandatory to love Jim, it’s easy to love him anyway. He is a smart, trustworthy, pure-hearted and charming cowboy hero, after all. The racial and religious tension in his predominantly Mormon rural Wyoming town is a constant theme, but characters from every group, religious and agnostic, even (gasp!) the love interest/token woman in this action-caper story, are rendered respectfully (thank you for that, Mr. Bishop; I’m hugging you with my mind!).
The action is frequent, creative, and intense; a particular scene involving a large number of bear traps comes readily and vividly to mind. Both the western and mob-thriller flavors are strong and blend together beautifully around the adventure. In the interest of returning to that unique atmosphere, if there were to be a sequel someday, taking advantage of that open ending, I’d very happily read it.