DANIEL BOYD – ’Nada.   Casperian Books, trade paperback, 2010.

   I have a semi-formal, strictly unwritten and not always enforced policy against reviewing books written by authors I know personally. But that shouldn’t stop me from telling you about them, now should it? No, I didn’t think so.


   Case in point. ’Nada has yet to be published – I believe it’s scheduled for some time early this fall – and when it is, I’ll tell you about it again. The author’s name on the title page is Daniel Boyd, but that’s a pen name of one of the regular contributors to this blog’s pages. (Whispering so no one else can hear: Dan Stumpf.)

   I don’t think he’ll mind my telling you that, but if it’s a secret, I’ll delete that last previous sentence and you’ll have to find out in some other fashion later on.

   It’s a book that takes place in Mexico, in and around an all-but-abandoned silver mine watched over by one man, the one who tells the story, Vernon Culley, a mining engineer from Kansas City. We know that much about him that right away, but not much else. Bit by bit, though, other pieces of his background get filled in as the story goes along.

   The year is 1936, right in the middle of the Great Depression, and Mexico, feeling the ailment as well as up in US, if not worse, is filled with banditos of all makes and models, which is how the story begins: with an old ambulance and the two men in it entering Culley’s small domain while fleeing a gang of ornery local outlaws headed by a fellow named Paco Serrano.

   Right about now – and this is about all I’m going to tell you about the plot – you should maybe know whether this is a book for you or not. But if you’re still uncertain, let me warn you that this is not a book for most “cozy” lovers, nor should you expect a locked room mystery to suddenly pop up and take over the tale.

   For a book of action, which of course is what this is in part, told by a strong authorial voice as if the teller of the tale were in the same room with you – one I could hear all the way through – I think the strongest parts were not the sections with the gunplay, which at one point is fast and furious indeed, but rather the quieter more reflective ones.

   Such as when Culley and his newly found friend Ray (one of the two men in the ambulance) are making their way across the desert to a town called Quenada (hence the title, making the apostrophe important if not essential) talking about life and death and men on the borderline between the two — and promises that have been made to them.

   It’s also a novel about gold, and the allure it has to men. It’s also a story told by a man who reads both Black Mask and “Hamlet,” and knows what the essentials are of each. If you were to ask me, I’d say that I think you should read it, but if you’ve read this non-review this far, you already know that, don’t you?

[UPDATE] 07-15-10. From the Casperian webpage I’ve discovered that ’Nada will be published on September 1st, and if you’d like to read the first chapter, it’s online there also.