From Publishers Weekly
This highly episodic picaresque manages to outlast a generic, disorganized plot to emerge as an entertaining romp through the American 1870s. For the most part, Warren's debut follows the youthful adventures of Edward Turrentine Bayard III, who has left his upper-class Connecticut family and headed to frontier Nebraska for his health. In short order, he becomes a buffalo skinner, learns to ride and shoot, and is smitten by the beautiful and poetic Lill Martine. She has other ideas, and Ned, crestfallen but undaunted in his devotion, takes a job offer from a paleontologist back East. There, he meets Phaegin, an attractive, streetwise dance hall girl, and more or less adopts a juvenile delinquent named Curly. Curly's mischief soon has the trio accused of anarchy, theft and murder, and they flee across the continent for their lives. A series of improbable coincidences and misadventures follow, involving wealthy entrepreneurs, Mormons, Indians and a variety of rustic frontier types. There's no shortage of sudden death and grim gore, all of which remains comically on the surface. Characters come and go, often violently. But astonishingly, the sweetness of the story keeps it afloat. (Sept.)
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This is the first novel by Warren, a painter and furniture maker. It is a sweeping saga of the western frontier in the 1870s, filled with colorful characters, stark and sometimes vibrant images, and violent but sometimes absurd situations. At the center of the narrative is Edward Turrentine Bayard III ("Turpentine"). As a young, tubercular easterner, he is sent to a Nebraska sanitarium to heal his lungs. Instead, through a series of mishaps and coincidences, he is launched on a cross-country odyssey. On his travels he encounters a cigar maker, a young coal miner, and lesser characters, some of whom seem derived from central casting. Turpentine is certainly an endearing literary creation, combining the wide-eyed innocence and crafty survivor's instincts of a Huck Finn. He and his companions witness labor strife, blood-and-guts buffalo hunts, and a host of travails and sometimes barely credible adventures. Although her story line occasionally gets jumbled and confusing, Warren knows how to spin a tale. There is considerable excitement, humor, and occasionally pathos in this enjoyable debut. Freeman, Jay