I’m not quite sure when J.L. Curtis and I began following each other’s blogs, but I became aware of his writing chops almost seven years ago when I was writing the Perspectives series with Matt G. and Babs, RN. Old NFO sent me a submission for a prospective third installment, from the bystander’s perspective.
Honestly, it was a terrific read. Sadly, I couldn’t use it because I already had an idea where I wanted the third installment to go (And still do, but am in need of a nurse and a cop to write the other two parts. Any volunteers?), so I thanked him for his submission and shelved the project.
So when he asked me to be a Beta reader for his novel, The Grey Man: Vignettes, I jumped at the chance. I couldn’t wait to experience the story my friend would weave, given an entire book to develop it.
I was not disappointed.
First things first: this is not literature. It makes no pretensions about revealing some deeper truth. This is a yarn, and a damned entertaining one.
Jim isn’t a writer, he’s a storyteller, and a damned good one. The book suffers a bit from a few typographical errors and misspellings (ones I should have caught as a Beta reader, so rightfully part of that criticism should be directed at me) and his prose is a bit uneven, the dialogue is stilted at times, but overall it’s an engaging yarn with characters you can like.
His protagonist, John Cronin, is a laconic west Texas sheriff’s deputy, ex-Special Forces, ex-federal law enforcement type, and a thoroughly bad man.
And by “bad,” I mean in the Western sense of the word, a bad man to tangle with. You fuck with him at your peril.
I know a few of those types; quiet warriors ignored by most, but deeply respected by those with the insight to recognize just how formidable they are. Shooters and ex-military know what I’m talking about; beware the nondescript old guy with a well-worn gun, because he’s apt to embarrass you in competition, and kill you if you lock horns.
John Cronin is just that sort of guy. Knowing Jim as I do, I see a lot of him in John Cronin, along with a few other old-time Texas lawmen, like this one. Walking history lessons, all of them, made of rawhide and grit, with a splash of Hoppe’s #9.
If there’s one thing that shines in the book, it’s the gunplay. Jim Curtis knows his weapons and shooting, and he crafts those scenes with a shooter’s eye. It pays big dividends in the realism of those scenes.
It’s an easy and entertaining read with a dash of history and west-Texas flavor and realistic gunplay. I heartily recommend it.