Monday, 20 May 2019

Worse Than Death (Crow #2)

Author: James W Marvin
First Published: 1979
Pages: 149

I feel like I need to review a novel that isn't the first part of a series - just so that you don't get the idea I'm going to create a blog consisting solely of Number/Issue One's!

The second installment in the Crow series sees our anti-hero coming to the aid of a besieged group of cavalry wagon trains consisting of a rag-tag group of troopers and their officers wives. It's a very different take on the first book, in both setting and situation. James W Marvin pits Crow against a blood thirsty band of Indians as well as the backdrop of a freezing winter environment in this improvement on The Red Hills.

All the elements from the previous book are still here; Crow's lean long-haired black garbed appearance; the trademark sawed-off shotgun; a totally inept commanding officer; a slice of torture, and a spicy sex scene (more on that later!). However, this time everything feels a bit more polished in its execution on reflection when compared to #1 (except the low key ending perhaps?) and I loved the way that having this set during such a bitterly cold climate added to the plight of the characters.

We begin with the obligatory opening scene of two characters in Abelene, Kansas discussing Crow (an old-man Crow and the author perhaps?). They are discussing Crow's response to the quote, "a fate worse than death", with the old man saying that Crow said there is NO fate worse than death and never to forget it.

Skip back in time, and we are introduced to a wagon train full of cavalry wives and womenfolk travelling across Dakota Territory. It consists of the rather pompous wife of Captain Hetherington, who is leading the band as his first independent command of any sort (you know that's not going to endear him to Crow right?), and the virginal daughter of Lieutenant Shannon.

Hetherington doesn't disappoint for long of course, and takes it upon himself and his small charge to try and kill or capture the local Indian Shoshone Chief, Many Knives. Many Knives is on the war path; he's bolstered by the recent victory of Crazy Horse and wants to make a name for himself. Needless to say things don't turn out well for the Captain or most of his troops.

Enter our anti-hero. Reluctantly. He can see a great massacre is on hand if he doesn't intervene and so decides to assist whats left of the ladies and the wagon drivers to defend their small party, trapped by the Shoshone on one side and the raging icy waters of the Moorcock River on the other. They are trapped and surrounded, and the bitter weather is beginning to take its toll.

Marvin sets the scene nicely, everything is set up for a great piece of action, which we do get. There is another great intro to Crow - his dispatching of three young braves is ruthless. We get a truly ghastly torture by the Shoshone, and the tension mounts as people begin to freeze to death as the Indians mount attack after attack. Despite the action throughout it felt like there was less of the ultra-violent description than before. But this doesn't take anything away, I still got my money's worth.

And oh yes, Crow gets his way, with both women at the same time in this story - of course, they were all so  cold it just made sense - in order to generate some heat you know what I mean?

Worse than Death is better than The Red Hills, I enjoyed the story a bit more this time, with the added environmental aspects it felt like Crow was fighting not just men,  but also mother nature.

As with all the books in this series, currently published by Piccadilly, this one cost a mere £0.99 in eBook format. There were a few spelling slip ups, but nothing major to  report, the quality control seems to be of a high level and won't spoil your reading experience in my opinion.