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Preston Lewis is the Spur Award–winning author of twenty-six western, juvenile, and historical novels on the Old West as well as numerous articles, short stories, and book reviews on the American frontier.
Wild Horse Press
Paperback, 978-1-68179-096-1, $19.95
Reading nineteenth-century Old West memoirs can be a fast way to fall asleep — unless they have been written in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries by San Angelo novelist Preston Lewis, a Spur Award winner and former president of the Western Writers of America.
Bluster’s Last Stand is the frequently hilarious fourth book in Lewis’s “Memoirs of H. H. Lomax” series. In this new entry, Lomax survives the Battle of Adobe Walls, gets into a deadly feud with General George Armstrong Custer (whom he derides as “General Bluster”), and later lands an unusual job in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. Along the way, he also works as a bouncer and guard in a Waco bordello and prospects for gold in the Black Hills of South Dakota.
In this memoir, Lomax confesses that he has shot and killed General Custer at the Little Bighorn and survived the massacre despite several wounds. And Custer’s shooting may have happened accidentally, yet on purpose. So how and why did Lomax end up at Little Bighorn in the first place, and why was Custer waiting for the right moment to kill Lomax, so he would look like a battlefield casualty?
Blame it all on “General Bluster,” Lomax relates, “because there weren’t enough mirrors in the world to adequately reflect his opinion of himself.” Custer had had outsized presidential ambitions and had refused to take some sound tactical advice from Lomax just before the fatal battle. But, worst of all, some Army firewood had been stolen, and blustering Custer wrongly pinned the rap on Lomax and had him arrested and taken along to Little Bighorn.
Lewis’s Lomax skewers several aspects of Old West tales. He is an Arkansan whose reputation has grown somewhat bigger than life in Texas and the West, mostly through rumors. Actually, his own mouth, actions, and blunders have kept getting him into scrapes and dangers. And several people, including Custer, have expressed desires to kill him.
Heightening his personal risks, Lomax is at least one bullet short of being a real gunslinger. He carries a five-shot Colt revolver in a shoulder harness. And Buffalo Bill Cody has given Lomax the derisive nickname “Leadeye,” because Lomax seldom hits anything but prairie when he shoots.
The three previous H. H. Lomax books are The Demise of Billy the Kid (1994, reprinted in 2015); The Redemption of Jesse James (1995, reprinted in 2016); and Mix-up at the O.K. Corral (1996, reprinted in 2017).
As Lomax rides across post–Civil War Texas, his opinions of the barely settled state are not high: “You could ride all day and not see anything worth seeing. Most of Texas was a hundred miles from civilization, fifty miles from water, and six inches from hell. Fortunately, I didn’t see any Comanche, any Kiowa or, thank God, any Texans.”
Preston Lewis keeps this new fictional memoir moving at pleasing pace. Only a very few comma and spelling errors briefly intrude, and he is protective of history and popular legends. In his introduction, he laments that “it has been two decades since a new Lomax adventure has been published.” Dramatic changes in the publishing industry have dictated some of that delay, he notes. But Lewis hints that more H. H. Lomax memoirs may be forthcoming now that Book Four is available.
Bluster’s Last Stand is clever, absorbing Old West entertainment, a book that delights as well as informs.
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