Sunday, January 26, 2014


The Daybreakers marks the point where the Sackett novels start to become Westerns, as Barnabas Sackett's latest round of descendants finally get tired of squabbling with lesser men in Tennessee and decide to strike out west to some farther, bluer mountains: the Rockies.

But first, New Mexico, newly added to the United States' territory and thus the target for arrogant jerk land speculators who think that the settlers of Spanish descent who have already been ranching there don't count as Americans -- don't count as people -- and so the land they've been working for a generation or three is actually up for grabs. Soon our Sackett boys, good lookin', sweet talkin' Orrin and our narrator-hero Tye ("the fastest gun alive"), meet up with the most arrogant jerk of them all, one Jonathan Pritts, whose surname should really end with a "ck" instead of "tts" if you know what I mean, but who also has a pretty blond daughter, Laura. Uh oh.

While Orrin is chasing Laura, who reminds Tye of a difficult horse he once knew, Tye meets up with a classy Spanish family, a grandfather and pretty granddaughter, Drusilla, whom Tye falls for almost as fast as Orrin fell for Laura. Uh oh again.

So conflict between the brothers seems inevitable as the Anglo newcomers and the Spanish landowners prepare to square off, but hey, these are Sacketts. And there is a lot more going on than just a land grab.

For on their way to meeting their lady loves, the Sackett boys join up with a cowboy outfit and hatch a plan to round up all the stray cattle that are wandering wild in Colorado, getting fat and juicy on mountain grass and clean water. And the leader of said outfit is an autodidact of sorts, Tom Sunday, who reads the Greek and Roman classics at night by the campfire and teaches Orrin and Tye how to read on similarly high-minded stuff that gives birth to ideas of making the West a civilized place where children can be raised safely and big D Democracy can flourish. What a guy!

Soon Orrin, already gifted with the gab and all the charisma you could care to call on, is dreaming big dreams about a future as a politician, little knowing that Tom's ambitions have always lay this way. Oops.

This is short, taut, tense story-telling at its best, but also its hokiest, which only adds to its charm. The Sackett family produce heroes of the kind that have become thoroughly unfashionable; there isn't a brooding anti-hero in the bunch. These guys are honest, forthright, capable, daring, brave, and romantic and loyal even when forces seem to conspire to drive a wedge between them. Both of them have to use their gifts of gab and gunfire to survive one fateful day when all that conflict comes to a head.

All in just 200-some pages. All because Orrin and Tye just wanted to do what these dudes did in this terrifyingly catchy but decidedly not cowboy song:


  1. I'm happy to see someone reviewing a book like this. I've been scanning the covers of the books in my library and posting them to Pinterest (found here, if you have any interest: ), and a good chunk of them have been books my dad had and which I salvaged after his passing. He read a lot of L'Amour, but I've yet to take the plunge. Your review has prompted me to kick one of the Sackett books a bit further up the to-be-read list. Thanks!

    1. That is so nice to hear, Jeff! I come by L'Amour via my father, too. He's read them all, many times. He got me to read a few of L'Amour's non-westerns (Fair Blows the Wind, The Walking Drum) when I was a teenager so I always knew the man could write, but I had an irrational prejudice against westerns back in the day - the kind only a young "intellectual" growing up in Wyoming can have. Glad I got over it, because these books are gems 8)


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