Mon 31 Aug 2009
RICHARD S. WHEELER – Flint’s Truth.
Forge, hardcover; 1st printing, May 1998. Paperback reprint: October 2000.
The first of itinerant newspaper printer Sam Flint’s adventures in the Old West was recorded in Flint’s Gift. This is the second; the third, forthcoming, is Flint’s Honor. And if this book is any measure, all three are worth tracking down and reading.
Moving from settlement to settlement with a printing press, several cases of movable type, newsprint and ink is not a task or career for the faint-hearted, nor is setting up shop in a town such as Oro Blanco, where the powers-that-be prefer that certain secrets stay hidden.
As Sam says on page 63: “You’d be amazed the amount of news that people don’t wish to see in print.” At stake is a fortune in land and gold.
This is a morality tale written in the guise of a western novel, with most of the characters taking stock parts. In fuller roles, though, besides Sam himself, are the philosophical Mexican priest who befriends him, and Libby, the skinny 13-year-old girl who becomes his right-hand aide. Each in their own way becomes a key to the tale, which is brutally honest and takes an ironic twist or two before a form of justice prevails.
Here’s a solid, picturesque glimpse into a unique time and place, one that rings a resonant chord of truth and right, and even better — as you can expect of all of Wheeler’s work — here’s a book that’s completely and compulsively readable.