Western fans are familiar with Jeff Arnold through his wonderful blog, Jeff Arnold’s West, where he deconstructs western films, novels and historical incidents. It’s an essential spot on the Web for western fans (or Westernistas, as he calls us).
Arnold has now turned his formidable talents to the novel and his first, Stay and Die, is a doozy. Set in1879 in Las Vegas, New Mexico, it tracks the exploits of our hero John Joshua Webb, and features enough cameos to almost be a Who’s Who of the West: Doc Holliday, Wyatt Earp, Jesse James and Billy the Kid all appear.
Stay and Die is intricately plotted and filled with historical detail. Arnold’s scenes are vividly portrayed and there is a visual sweep that is painterly; beyond that, it is deeply satisfying.
The Western is different from other genres in that it is often … honest in ways that other books are not. There is a purity in its depiction of people, an almost Greek-drama quality in its essential conflicts. Arnold gets that and delivers a book that is honest, essential and great reading. Get yourself a copy of Stay and Die.