Title: Beyond the Goodnight Trail
Author: Roy V. Gaston
Inspired by true events and people, Beyond the Goodnight Trail is a classic western novel. Former Texas Ranger scout Pete Horse has a lifetime of experience riding in the wild west. When his friend Charlie Goodnight asks him to help lead a trail drive, Pete knows there will be trouble. Aside from the coyotes, long riding hours, and unexciting food options, there’s something even more risky that they will encounter: the threat of the Comanche.
The Comanche are a Native American tribe who have seen Natives across the U.S. have their land taken from them and their people sent to reservations. Pete knows more than anyone how willing the Comanche are to strike at anyone who could possibly threaten their tribe. Now, Pete must bring the cattle, the horses, and the other riders safely across Texas, straight through Comanche territory.
The novel is very atmospheric. The pacing of the novel matches the pacing of the trail drive, and it makes it incredibly easy to get into the flow of the story. The descriptions and details of riding out in the west create an atmosphere that will make readers feel like they are along for the journey. The details, such as the use of western slang, adds to the scene and creates a story that feels authentic to the harsh, hard reality of living in The Old West.
There is a seemingly constant game of telephone among the characters—everyone explains things that have happened or what they have heard through dialogue. Especially in the first 50 pages of the novel, these explanations read as info-dumping. When the characters introduce or talk about each other, it’s an easy and obvious form of exposition that could’ve been done more naturally over the course of the novel rather than all at once. Balancing the exposition with concrete forms of plot progression would have eased the feeling of needing to keep up with too many stories, names, and too much information at once.
As the characters and story develop, the constant exchange of information does effectively build some suspense and raise the stakes. We learn more about people’s motives and how increasingly dangerous the trail drive is getting. Our main characters grow quite charming and funny as we see more personality from them. Though it’s often a serious book, there are plenty of funny moments as well.
The main antagonist of the novel, Higbee, a religious fanatic of his own making, is brilliantly unbearable. He is everything you could want from an antagonist: impulsive, unjust, and irrational. There is a lot of tension and suspense built up around Higbee’s character and when he finally makes an appearance, he exceeds our expectations.
A major plot point in the novel involves the journalist Pierpont, who travels with Pete and the other riders to write a story about Natives forced onto reservations. Though the journalist is present from beginning to end, we don’t get a wrap-up of his storyline, nor do we hear about how his piece turns out. Being able to read the finalized article would have been a satisfying way to bring things full circle.
The Notes and real-life character biography sections at the end of the book are fascinating for anyone interested in learning about the historical figures that inspired the characters in this book.
Historical men of the west meet an exciting storyline about trust, honor, and valiance in this classic western. Beyond the Goodnight Trail reminds us of the adventure a good cowboy story can bring. Atmospheric and authentic, this western novel will please readers looking for tension, adventure, and, of course, cowboys.
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