DANIEL BOYD – Aesop’s Travels: A Crackerjack Tale of the Old West. Montag Press, trade paperback, July 2023.

   Let me say right here at the start that in your eyes, you may not consider this an unbiased review. I know the author personally, and if you stop by this blog even only every so often, so do you. Under his own name, he goes by Dan Stumpf, and his book and movie reviews that are posted here are even better than mine, if that were at all possible, not to mention all of the most cogent comments he leaves on posts of others here.

   But since I believe that this is the book I most enjoyed reading all year, I thought I’d at least tell you some more about it, and you can make your own decision from there.

   It is a western, of the traditional variety, but I cannot give you another author to whose work you might compare it to. It is very nearly unique in many ways, and hopefully what I say here will explain further. It takes place in the 1880s, perhaps, in Dakota Territory, and the small town of Greenfield, where Beefy Beaumont, the narrator of the tale, now owns the Queen of Egypt saloon.

   And as the story opens, a good friend of his, Charlie Greenfield, a gambler who holds down a table in the saloon nearly every night of the week, is in jail and is destined to be hanged by the end of the week. There is more to the story than that, but it comes out only gradually and you’re be better off reading it on your own anyway.

   I hope I will not spoil things too much by saying the hanging does not happen, and when it doesn’t, Part Two of the book takes off from there. What I do need to tell you is something about Little Aesop, the young waif Beefy finds hunkered down in the saloon when he takes over. Little Aesop, by the way, is the new name Beefy gives him (from Billy Boogers, as I recall, based on the snot that continually flows from his nose, and whom Beefy teaches how to clean himself up.)

   Little Aesop, being only one step up from being the village idiot, so to speak, also needs to learn how to handle life, and to that end, Beefy tells him stories every evening from Aesop’s Fables.

   Now I admit that this may not seem like much to base a 300 page novel on, but it is the starting point that you may be wondering about as to the what and wherefore of the title, at least, and Part Two of the tale is a rip-roaring tale of retribution and revenge. You will read the last two chapters in perhaps thirty seconds or less.

   Participating in this second-half journey are: the Bartender, the Old Scout, the Outlaw, and Gambler, and of course, Little Aesop. They do not all come back alive, but while you, the reader, have no idea all along where the story is headed, it does come to an end in due course to the spot where it was headed all along.

   Daniel Boyd has a voice all his own, consistently humorous and folksy and real. If you like westerns which go off the beaten path as much as I do, then I think you’ll enjoy this one as much as I did.