Book Review: The Law of Capture by Joe Totten

How many different ways can the story of a Western gunman really be told? Joe Totten took that challenge and created the exceptional tale of a man that has had no fixed name in the vagaries of life.

The story follows the various accounts of Corky Vance as he travels out of home in search of fortune and freedom. As a fourteen-year-old lad, he goes to war, and returns at the age of sixteen. He doesn’t like the quite homely feelings at his own family ranch. He moves out to Texas and then the saga begins of cattle drive and run, brutal dry spells, dangerous creek crossings, hostile Indians, outlaws raids and so on.

More or less, the novel deals with a few men that are independent and brutal in their practices to survive in a best possible way. Joe balanced the narrative by offering tales of white men and natives with equal panache. The story covers the lead character Edward Valentine (his real name is Corky Vance) and his erratic odd jobs, ranging from scouting cattle to bank robbery to hired assassin and sheriff and detective with Pinkertons. Nevertheless, he had a few rules with the gun. What are those? What fate and glory life can promise to a lawless man? Delving deep into the novel will give readers an opportunity to know what it was like to be a rough and lone survivor amid the harsh territory and hostile tribes.

There isn’t much in the way of overarching plot or a central conflict, but it’s enjoyable nonetheless.  The readers will really experience all that an old West cattle trail had to offer in the first part; and pure lawless life of a gunman in the second.

The novel is largely written as a narrative, with little in the way of dialogue, so it’s not a quick read. It’s extremely well written though, and in a more authentic voice than many Westerns are. It actually reminded me of Lonesome Dove in terms of its writing style — which a compliment is about as high as can be given.

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