Author: Robert B. Parker
Mood: If everything is exhausting and you can barely function but still want to read and need a Western that will do the job without using that last brain cell.
I’m doing something totally out of character here: reviewing the third book in a series when I didn’t review the second. But after finishing Brimstone, I knew I had to talk about it.
I discovered Robert B. Parker’s gunmen Everett Hitch and Virgil Cole the same way most people probably do, through Appaloosa (the movie). The movie was so good, I picked up Appaloosa (the book), then the sequel, Resolution.
I did read that second book – there was just nothing so special about it to warrant sitting down to write a review.
Brimstone gets a spot on my little Western review site, but not because it’s a jaw-dropping or brilliant work of fiction. It’s actually not even as good as Appaloosa (the book), and only slightly better than Resolution. I just want people to know that if you like Parker’s easygoing storytelling, it’s worth continuing the series.
Brimstone kicks off with lawful(ish) gunmen Hitch and Cole looking for work, while trying to track down the notoriously no good Allie French. She ran out on Virgil sometime between Appaloosa and Resolution (the towns), but Virgil has decided she’s the one.
In a totally Virgil way, of course. He basically says there aren’t a lot of other options, and she’s alright.
Hitch and Cole find Allie almost right away, then get recommended to deputy jobs in Brimstone, Texas. It’s a typical Western town with questionable characters dominating leadership roles, and no law. In this case, the characters are Brother Percival, a “militant Christian”, and former outlaw gang leader-turned-saloon-owner Pike.
Brother Percival holds loud protests outside every saloon in town, driving them out of business. Pike seems to have his share of trouble with a Native American challenger, but shockingly (just kidding) all is not what it seems in Brimstone.
Brimstone is a lot like Appaloosa, and Resolution. If by this point in the series you haven’t fully accepted the predictably entertaining mechanics of the Hitch and Cole stories, you probably already quit reading.
But to me, that’s the beauty of these books – they ask nothing of your brain. I use them to break up heavier reads like the non-fiction I’ve committed to exploring for this review site. You can blast through them because most of the pages are single words of dialogue. And you know exactly what you’re going to get:
- Everyone has heard of and respects Virgil
- Everett will go where Virgil goes and do what Virgil does
- Allie will cheat on Virgil
- Virgil will misuse big words
- They’ll meet some powerful bad guys
- There will be a few chases, hunts, and shootouts
- They’ll leave town with their reputations intact
I still can’t stand Allie’s character. I don’t know if a woman could have written her better; I honestly don’t think it’s that. She’s meant to be kind of vile, almost like her flaws evoke the authentic ugliness of the Old West in a way that the unflappable heroes do not.
The best part of Brimstone is the introduction of Pony Flores. Pony is half Mexican, half Chiricahua, and 100% badass.
He’s another grunting man-of-few-words type like Hitch and Cole, so he fits seamlessly into the narrative. He shows these hints of humour and emotion that make him a scene-stealing character, if such a thing exists on paper.
There are several times where Hitch and Cole couldn’t have succeeded without Pony. I would love to see his origin story, or a spinoff. But obviously that’s not going to happen, since author Parker passed away after writing the fourth book in the Hitch and Cole series.
I’ve heard the others after Brimstone are terrible and not worth reading. I might give the fourth a try, if I can find a free library copy.
Is Brimstone a sequel that rivals the original? No. I’ve seen lots of online reviews that complain about Parker reusing situations and character traits in each book of this series. But honestly, what did you expect? Bitching about Hitch and Cole being the same in every book is like bitching about Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore being the same in every movie they do together.
If you like your Western fiction fast and entertaining with minimal brain cell usage, keep reading this series. I have no regrets.