“War does not determine who is right, only who is left” – Bertrand Russell
F. A. Shepherd’s latest novel ‘Buckaloo Ridge’ can in many ways be described as a genre defying book. It’s hard to pigeonhole the plotline into a particular category as it has the best different genres have to offer. At some level it’s about an individual’s personal battle to avenge the killers of his young wife, it’s also a thriller involving the CIA and a drug trail that extends all the way to the White House, plus there’s plenty of commentary on politics and war and espionage.
Bobby Joe Pierson who is our ‘hero’ was a kid who always liked playing around with his little BB gun, participating in a lot of make believe fighting games around his family owned farm. But little did he know back then how much his adult life would mirror his favourite childhood games. He meets his love, Anna Mae McHorris in college and gets married to her. She encourages him to go back to school and he becomes a successful chemist. But his perfect life comes to a grinding halt the day his wife is killed in a vehicular accident by a District Attorney driving under the influence. When Bobby Joe sees that his wife won’t get the justice she deserves, he plots a revenge plan that sees him move in with Colin, his brother in law in a non-descript ranch in no man’s land from where he not only gets his revenge but also gets involved in some high flying case of shady politics and espionage resulting in an adventure thriller.
The author has subtly imparted the effects of war that has on the scores of young minds. From finding out that combat duty isn’t for everyone to showing off qualities like bravery and patriotism, war affects different people differently. But one thing that seems to affect everyone the same way is how they are able to live in the ‘real’ world afterwards, the scarring of war experiences leads people to find unique ways to cope with it, some more dangerous than others. He has also touched upon an important but often neglected area like the influence of drugs and narcotics in the army and the level of U.S government involvement in them, although it has been presented fully within the context of a fictional novel, this particular sub plot certainly makes it an extremely realistic and compelling read.
There is an extended prologue which even though doesn’t have anything to do directly with the rest of the story other than explain our lead character Bobby Joe Pierson’s actions better, really stands out for its presentation. The prologue really deserves a separate book of its own to do complete justice to the intrigue and mystery, the author manages to create in the first few pages. FA Shepherd also doesn’t believe in lingering on for too long with any scene and the rapid pace in the change of scenery is something that you will need to get used to but once you do, it will take you along for a nonstop wild ride.
Buckaloo Ridge is an adrenaline pumping whopper of a thriller which has all the action and drama of a Hollywood movie or a TV series. The early chapters play out like a sophisticated game of cat-and-mouse as Bobby Joe becomes obsessed with seeking vengeance for his wife’s murder. Although the main protagonists and the numerous sub characters are all deeply flawed and have their share of issues, they have all been well developed and have been given short back stories to further define their actions better. But none of this hinders the break neck pace of the main narrative which chugs along beautifully.
FA Shepherd ‘s creativity is put to good use in many places, one instance worth mentioning is how he cleverly creeps up on the reader when they least expect it, just when you think you have the story all figured out, Shepherd pulls the rug right from under your feet and shocks and surprises you. A lot of incidents and places that are mentioned in this novel are real and the author has taken only certain creative liberties to commercialize the fiction. As you turn each page, you won’t be able to stop yourself from reading more as each chapter will pull you more into this intriguing and mystery filled world within. Buckaloo Ridge is a clear winner!
Paperback: 178 pages
Publisher: AuthorHouse (July 23, 2013)