JAMES D. BEST is a best-selling author who writes across genres. He tells me his second favourite of his own novels is THE SHOPKEEPER because ‘it was so much fun to write.’
THE SHOPKEEPER is the first appearance of James’s hero Steve Dancy, who leaves his New York shop in 1879 to travel the west, recording his experiences in a journal he hopes to expand into a novel.
Dancy's infatuation with another man's wife soon embroils him in a deadly feud with Sean Washburn, a Nevada silver baron. Pinkerton detectives and hired assassins add to this exciting tale, which James salts with playful humour.
The writer out west theme reminded me of MARK TWAIN (Samuel Langhorne Clemens) who travelled in California and Nevada in the 1860s.
MARK TWAIN in 1867
He was depicted by Frederick March in THE ADVENTURES OF MARK TWAIN (1944.)
Twain in Nevada features in no less than three episodes of BONANZA, including ‘Enter Mark Twain’ with Howard Duff.
And the eastern ‘dude’ finding himself in rough, not to say dangerous, company out west naturally brought to mind James Stewart in THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE.
Mining camps in the Nevada remained rough ‘frontier’ places even into the early 20th Century, when the Tonopah mining district was developed.
REVIEWS of THE SHOPKEEPER:
‘One of the best western books I've read in a long time.’
‘In structure, with short chapters, crisp dialogue, and lots of movement, it's reminiscent of a thriller ... you'll certainly find enough twists and turns to provide an entertaining and exciting story.’
‘If you are a fan of great westerns from authors like Louis L'Amour and Larry McMurtry, then you need to get on board with James Best and the Steve Dancy series. Great stories, interesting and diverse characters and plenty of action!’
‘The film noir like writing provides plenty of unexpected twists and turns.’
‘Mr. Best shatters the mold for western novels.... This is a western unlike any I've ever read. The scenery and description of the towns, trails, people and the trails they travel is exquisite and historically accurate.’
‘Not your usual gun totin shoot-em-up bang bang western. Shopkeeper is a turn off the TV compelling read that includes politics, gunplay, intrigue, and a hint of unrequited adoration.’