• 70°

Gene Hackman's Western is good novel

“Payback at Morning Peak,” by Gene Hackman. Pocket Books. 400 pp. Paperback. $7.99.
By Douglass K. Daniel
Associated Press
While some of his fellow actors were busy writing memoirs, Gene Hackman was working on his first solo novel. We know from movies like “Unforgiven” and “Bite the Bullet” that the Oscar winner can ride a horse, but how well can he wrangle Western fiction?
Just fine, it turns out.
“Payback at Morning Peak” is a satisfying revenge tale that takes place in New Mexico, a place Hackman called home long before he retired from the screen in 2004. He sets his story at a time when the American Southwest was still a lively and, at times, lawless frontier.
Just shy of 18, Jubal Young is a good boy schooled in literature by an educated mother and brought up on the land by an honest, hardworking father. When a dispute over their farm in the shadow of Morning Peak turns violent and Jubal loses all he loves, he tries to put aside a yearning for immediate retribution and to seek justice instead.
Justice isn’t easy to come by. Bad men set their own rules, and most lawmen don’t pay much attention to a teenager. That puts Jubal in the middle, leaving him the difficult task of pursuing a pack of killers without landing himself in jail or taking a bullet. His internal challenge isn’t to give in to vengeance and cruelty, lest his parents’ true legacy die with them.
Hackman has co-authored three historical novels since 1999. Writing on his own with “Payback at Morning Peak,” he takes aim at a clear target: telling a good story. He hits it, too, engaging the reader with interesting characters and a galloping plot with few stumbles. There is more than a bit of familiarity in the goings-on — the love interest is too predictable — and Jubal’s politeness can take the vigor out of a scene.In a sense, Hackman’s “Morning Peak” lies in Louis L’Amour country, a place where the conventions of the Western novel are as welcome as a man of honor and a pretty young lady. Riding a trail of his own making, Hackman takes hold of the reins with confidence.
Douglass K. Daniel is the author of “Tough as Nails: The Life and Films of Richard Brooks” (University of Wisconsin Press).

Comments

Comments closed.

BREAKING NEWS

October closure hearings set for Faith, Enochville elementary schools

Crime

Police say man gave false name after high speed chase, crashing into lumber truck

Coronavirus

Nearly 400 cases considered currently active in the county

Education

Rowan-Cabarrus Community College creates free course to help parents tackle virtual learning

Business

New unemployment claims down in August, could indicate positive trend for businesses

Crime

Salisbury man faces drug possession charges after overdose call

Crime

Police: Man charged after children call 911 from neighbor’s house

Ask Us

Ask Us: Who are people behind sign at City Park playground?

Coronavirus

Prison in Salisbury latest site of COVID-19 outbreak

Crime

Blotter: Salisbury Man charged with felony assault by strangulation

Nation/World

Trump vows quick Supreme Court vote, Biden urges delay for Nov. 3

Nation/World

New rule may strip pollution protections from popular lakes

East Spencer

East Spencer draws crowd for annual community day

Elections

In Rowan’s legislative races, Howard, Warren get off to strongest start in fundraising

Business

From Navy SEAL to Medicare agent, Trent Waller looks to continue serving his community

Elections

In 13th Congressional District race, Budd, Huffman differ on government’s role in COVID-19 help

Local

Rowan County Telecommunications joins new state digital 911 system

Education

School board will consider scheduling public hearings for Faith, Enochville closures

Business

Biz Roundup: Food Lion makes donation to support racial equality and justice

Elections

Republicans rally supporters at Saturday lunch

Elections

Budd holds wide lead over Huffman in fundraising, cash on hand

Crime

UPDATED: 1 shot, 5 in custody after shooting at haunted house that attracted 1,000 visitors

Nation/World

Trump picks conservative Amy Coney Barrett to fill Supreme Court seat

Coronavirus

Deadly September propels Rowan County to 100 deaths from COVID-19