Reviewed by DAVID VINEYARD:          

LARRY D. SWEAZY – A Thousand Falling Crows. Seventh Street Books, softcover, January 2016.

   The crows went about their summer business. Families were raised and fledged, the promise of winter certain, but distant. What corn had survived the drought was hardly worth eating. For now there was a bounty of dead things to live on. But hunger would come soon… Only survival mattered. The hand of death provided the crows the opportunity to continue to fly.

   It is a dry spring in Texas circa 1934, the ravages of the Dust Bowl still taking their toll, and former Texas Ranger Sonny Burton — Red Burton was a legendary Ranger, who among other things arrested John Wesley Hardin, and Sweazy, who knows his Ranger history, no doubt had that connection in mind — who lost an arm and his career in a shootout with Bonne Parker and Clyde Barrow is trying to rebuild his life. When Aldo Hernandez, the janitor of the hospital he was in, asks Sonny to help find his daughter who is involved with a pair of robbers, he sees a chance for a kind of redemption by saving the girl from becoming another Bonnie Parker and beginning a new career as a private detective.

   A Thousand Falling Crows is a noirish hard-boiled tale with an elegiac voice about loss and redemption as that case dovetails into a more serious matter of a killer murdering young women and leaving them in local fields to be eaten by the crows of the title. With help from his son, Pete, and from legendary Texas Ranger Frank Hamer, who hunted Bonnie and Clyde to their bullet-ridden fate in Louisiana, Sonny might just reclaim his manhood and his past if he can save one not-quite-innocent from herself and the bitter facts of the harsh landscape of the Depression and the Dust Bowl.

   Larry D. Sweazy is a Spur Award winning Western writer who also delves into mystery, and here starts what I hope is a new series about a good man in a tough dangerous world. He manages a nice balance between realism and romanticism here, presenting a sort of Gothic vision of an era known for its unforgiving violence and loss as much as its unbending faith there would be a future.

   Sweazy has an impressive list of accomplishments as a writer, but this book is not without flaws. I found at times that he leaned toward a slight excess in some of his atmospherics — including the quote above which needs a bit of tightening by a good editor — but for the most part he is in control, and any minor quibbles are just that, quibbles. I will certainly read more, look for some of his Western novels and other titles, and look forward to more about Sonny Burton. Sweazy is potentially a major voice in development.