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Hard Country: A Novel of the Old West    by Michael McGarrity order for
Hard Country
by Michael McGarrity
Order:  USA  Can
Dutton, 2012 (2012)
Hardcover, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Bob Walch

Welcome back to the Old West in this first installment of a sweeping family saga that will cover the period from the late 1800s up through modern times.

Hard Country fictionalizes the history of the American Southwest from 1875-1918. The first of this planned trilogy introduces the Kerney family and explains how and why John Kerney resettled in the territory of New Mexico.

A somber opening finds Kerney burying his wife after she dies giving birth to the couple's first child, a boy named Patrick. Close upon the heels of this tragic event, John's brother and young nephew are murdered.

Leaving his infant son with his bereaved sister-in-law, John embarks on a quest to find and exact revenge for these murders. The reader will follow John to the post-Civil War southwest as he struggles to survive in the face of Apache attacks, cattle rustling, general hard times and frontier lawlessness.

Once he joins up with a partner, Cal Doran, and establishes the Double K Ranch, John calls for his son but, once again, tragedy strikes. John is killed in a wagon accident and Doran is left with the task of raising his partner's six year old son.

As the lengthy tale shifts to the next generation of Kerneys, we follow young Patrick into adulthood, a somewhat unconventional marriage and his life on the family ranch. When the Spanish-American war erupts, Patrick joins the Rough Riders and is wounded in Cuba.

After his return home, the couple has their first child, CJ, and the narrative shifts to the volatile relationship between Patrick and his wife Emma, which will eventually end in a divorce, CJ's childhood, and the arrival of a second child, Matthew.

When the next war comes along, CJ enlists, just as his father did decades earlier. As one would expect, given this family's history, tragedy strikes again and the young soldier dies on the battlefield in France.

With the close of Hard Country, the story shifts to Matthew and there's a glimmer of hope that Patrick and Emma may reconcile.

Those familiar with Michael McGarrity's writing know he is the author of a series of popular crime novels featuring Kevin Kerney. McGarrity said that he knew that eventually he would recreate his protagonist's family history. 'I knew I would someday have to tell his family's story generation by generation,' the author explained.

Obviously that day has arrived and the result is a very entertaining novel that captures the flavor of the Old West. If you enjoy family sagas which feature plenty of action, drama and authentic historical background, this is a trilogy you'll wish to follow from the outset.

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