‘Glorious:’ love and trouble in the Arizona Territory
Jeff Guinn’s new novel “Glorious” is a worthy addition to the western genre. Cash McLendon gets more than he bargained for when he follows a woman to the town of Glorious in the Arizona Territory.
Special to The Seattle Times
by Jeff Guinn
G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 406 pp., $26.95
Getting to the fictional town of Glorious, Arizona Territory, means taking a long, slow stagecoach ride.
How long? Thirty-nine slow pages long, the first ones in Jeff Guinn’s novel “Glorious.”
Fortunately, the pace picks up after that, when Guinn gets to the backstory of Cash McLendon, one of the passengers in the stage and a character worth developing, which Guinn does over the next 300 plus pages.
The quick-thinking and smooth-talking McLendon arrives in Glorious in May 1872. He has come to the mining town, not in search of silver, but to find Gabrielle. Cash has done her wrong back in nominally more civilized St. Louis. There, Cash left behind his wife Ellen, drug-addled and then (through no fault of his own) dead.
His rich industrialist father-in-law blames him for the death. He once valued McLendon’s willingness to spy on enemies and talk people into doing things against their interest. Now he would like him dead.
McLendon would like to show Gabrielle he has changed his ways and win her back.
Guinn populates the town of Glorious with the usual suspects in a Western novel — prospectors, hardworking town folks, whores, drunks, gun-toting vaqueros and the pure-hearted Gabrielle. Guinn relies on some real historical figures — the outlaw Ike Clanton and territorial governor A.P.K. Safford, for example — to fill out the census.
These names and the frontier town are familiar territory for Guinn, who has written nonfiction about Arizona, most notably “The Last Gunfight,” a well-researched airing of what led up to the gunfight near Tombstone’s O.K. Corral, the most famous exchange of lead in the history of the American West.
But “Glorious,” the first in a trilogy, has as much wooing as shooting, although violence and the threat of it propel the plot, which is mostly about greed. Another rich man, not so different from the one in St. Louis, is trying to take control of the town; the founding fathers and mothers are hoping the grubbing prospectors will strike it rich and bring a flood of new customers and prosperity to Glorious.
The twists and turns stretch credulity at times, and the book rushes to an end, with the good guys in a burning building and gunfire trained on the only means of escape. Criticisms aside, this book will be catnip for “Lonesome Dove” fans. And somehow, Cash McLendon rides off to the promised sequel, which, if it’s like “Glorious,” will be worth waiting for.
John B. Saul is a former Seattle Times editor who has taught journalism and nonfiction writing at the University of Montana and the University of Washington.