Tuesday, September 24, 2013

THE OUTCASTS by Kathleen Kent

Seamlessly blending history and fiction Kathleen Kent once again proves herself to be a master of this literary form. Passionate, intelligent, gripping The Outcasts is a marvel of a story taking us to Texas in the 1870s. Kent’s prose is, at times, almost poetic as she describes characters, emotions or scenery. How easy to see in our mind’s eye a longboat heading for the Tropic of Cancer, “and the Yucatan which lay beyond it like a pale virgin sleeping, reflecting the light of countless stars.” The lives of Civil War survivors are painterly detailed, so vivid are Kent’s words that these people appear before us to touch our hearts, engage our minds.

Lucinda Carter, an unwilling occupant of a Fort Worth brothel where she has worked for practically naught, makes her escape. She takes with her a pouch full of money belonging to her parsimonious landlady, Mrs. Landry. Lucinda travels to Middle Bayou, Texas, a place noted only for the rumor that Jean LaFitte buried his gold near there. She gained a teaching position in that community under false pretenses, and waits for her lover to fulfill his promise of a new life made possible by the riches of a pirate’s gold.

At approximately the same point in time a young fellow from Oklahoma, Nate Cannon, has joined the Texas State Police. He’s a fine man with an active conscience and clear ideas of right and wrong. But, he has never been in service before. His first assignment is to accompany two legendary law men, Capt. George Deerling and Dr. Tom Goddard who for years have been tracking William McGill, a ruthless killer who shows no mercy to women or children. Initially Deerling and Goddard are unenthusiastic about traveling with an inexperienced soldier but Nate eventually earns their respect and comradeship.

It seems apparent early on that Nate and Lucinda will eventually meet. But before this happens what each experiences and the lives they intersect are luminously described. Kent is not a waster of words but chooses each with care to frame word pictures both beautiful and shocking, a boon for the reader.

The Outcasts is that rarity, a book one wishes would not end simply because reading it gives so much pleasure. Don’t miss it!

- Gail Cooke

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