First of all, the title is perfect. Wild Whistling Blackbirds.
The title of my upcoming western, Cowboys Came Home, came quickly, but, usually, a title doesn’t come to me until I’m well into the first draft. Here, it’s as if author Allen Kent came up with this splendid title, rooted in poetry, and built the entire tale around fitting it perfectly. There’s no need here to betray the deftness of the touch, but it’s apt. It’s cool. It’s nifty. It’s swell.
The writing is lovely. The plotting is nicely paced. The history is instructive. Somehow Kent places a hub for what happened in America in the 1860s in the little town of Afton, Iowa, where a single family goes out to epitomize the time.
I didn’t really know until I finished it that Wild Whistling Blackbirds is the middle installment of a trilogy, and one reason is that the story seems self-contained. I’ve developed an unwitting habit recently of reading series in the wrong order.
The Whitlocks are a great collection of virtue, originality, and impetuosity. At the beginning, Suzanna, is left to run the family lumber mill because husband David has marched off to fight for the Union cause. Johnny has left for the West in search of adventure. Thomas has been banished to the east to learn the latest methods in treating lumber. The one daughter, Elizabeth, is reveling in the exciting modernity of Chicago, where she has been exposed to ideas anathema to conservative Afton.
The wondrous Suzanna, who has sent her brood out into the world, faces disaster that requires her to gather the clan again in order to save their livelihood.
If there is a weakness in Wild Whistling Blackbirds, it is that it all fits together so nicely that is leans a bit toward the predictable. Such craftsmanship often hazards that risk. It could be that I’m just jealous.
Allen Kent’s Wild Whistling Blackbirds is available here. The release date is July 12.
Stop by L&L Office Supply, 114 North Broad Street, Clinton and buy one of my novels. Buy either Forgive Us Our Trespasses or Crazy of Natural Causes, and you’ll get a volume of my short stories, Longer Songs, absolutely free. Tell ‘em Mr. Monte sent you, y’hear?
Kindle versions – you don’t have to have a Kindle, just a free app for your electronic devices – of most of my books are available here. Links to print copies are below.
Forgive Us Our Trespasses is the latest. It’s a tale about crooked politician who wants to be governor, whatever it takes, and another man trying to stop him. It’s outrageous.
Crazy of Natural Causes is about the fall and rise of Chance Benford, a Kentucky football coach who reinvents himself. It’s original.
The Intangibles is about the South in the 1960s, complete with racial strife, bigotry, resentment, cultural exchange and, of course, high school football.
The Audacity of Dope is the tale of Riley Mansfield, a pot-smoking songwriter turned national hero with a taste for the former and a distaste for the latter.
Longer Songs is a collection of 11 short stories that all began in songs I wrote.
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