No doubt we will read more of the adventures of Jethro Sping.
Arthur Shoemaker - Tulsa World
The third volume in the Valediction for Revenge series opens directly after the Lincoln shootout leaves Lawyer McSween and several of his followers dead. Those who remain must decide whether to come back another day to fight the Dolan-Riley gang, or forget about obtaining revenge for young John Tunstall and ride away from Lincoln County. Jethro Spring, the young mixed blood with an Indian mother and a white father, has about decided to ride on, the Lincoln County War having no hold on him. But can he really desert Susan McSween, Billy the Kid, for whom he still feels some affection, and the poor Mexican and white farmers and ranchers, whose economic well-being is threatened by the Santa Fe Ring? Lincoln County is completely lawless. The President sends in Lew Wallace as the new Territorial Governor with orders to clean up Lincoln County. Spring becomes Wallace's investigator and tries to convince the governor to give Billy the Kid a pardon. Despite Wallace's good intentions the head of the Santa Fe Ring, Thomas B. Catron, is permitted to remain as New Mexico's Attorney General. Catron takes over the Dolan-Riley store and reinstates the control the Ring had in Lincoln County. Jethro is arrested by the corrupt sheriff, George Pippin, who is in Catron's pocket. Pippen is supported by a detachment of troops from Fort Stanton. To Lincoln County residents the bad times are back, and one can feel the hatred in the street. Afraid for his life Sheriff Pippen resigns, and with him goes the last pretense of law and order in Lincoln County. Although the residents feel the worst is over with the resignation of Pippin and the defeat of John Selman's outlaw gang, Jethro feels Lincoln is poised to explode. This fictional recounting of the aftermath of the Lincoln County War is by necessity filled with a multitude of characters, but Cheek succeeds in so clearly describing the various illegal maneuvers of the many participants on both sides of the conflict, that the reader is able to follow the action. By choosing the years immediately following the Lincoln War, Cheek is challenged to render the complexities of the political, legal, and commercial aspects of situation in Lincoln understandable to the average reader. He succeeds. Their association with a close knit cadre of territorial officials and military officers -- known as the "Sante Fe Ring" (the real power in the territory) -- allowed Dolan-Riley to control Lincoln County. John Tunstall, rancher and son of a wealthy English merchant, conceived the idea of a partnership with Alexander McSween to establish a business to compete with Dolan-Riley. At stake were the rich military and Indian Reservation beef contracts. Jethro Spring is drawn into the crucible of violence as the war breaks out in Lincoln County where he is acquainted with most of the gunman on both sides. As the tide begins to turn with a new Territorial administration, Jethro befriends the new governor, Lew Wallace, and becomes his confidant and investigator. Still he can't forget his past friendship with Billy the Kid and others who use him to further their own interests. As the trouble winds down, Jethro eventually becomes estranged from the unforgiving land and people without peace. Roland Cheek has used the history of the Lincoln County War and gives it a fresh twist. The dialogue is extremely well done and the action scenes are alive with excitement. No doubt we will read more of the adventures of Jethro Spring. --Tulsa World, Author Shoemaker, writer
Again, the writing of Crisis On the Stinkingwater follows Roland Cheek's pattern of thorough research, along with careful attention to historical detail and geographic accuracy. It's of a land and people before Buffalo Bill Cody arrived to apply his showman's hand to sanitizing even the country's name. The fifth in the "Valediction for Revenge" series finds Jethro Spring still on the run from a false charge of murder, in the valley of Stinkingwater River, where he files a homestead claim on a remote piece of land claimed by a greedy and powerful rancher. Jethro only wants to build his cabin and live quietly in peace; he doesn't want a confrontation with Ellis Burroughs. On the other hand, Jethro has no intention of being run off his land. His example leads other homesteaders to resist Burroughs, risking their lives to do so. Jethro partners with and old mountain man, Sam Buttercut, who knew Jethro's father and aims to help the son in his fight to keep his homestead. Lillian Mathers, the fiancee of Ellis Burroughs, and her father, Angus, join with Jethro and Sam to defeat the domineering rancher. Much of the book is narrated by Sam Buttercut, one of Cheek's most likeable and humorous characters, and it is Sam who passes judgment on Jethro's last action against Burroughs. In terms of the ending, Crisis on the Stinkingwater is Cheek's darkest book. It is also the most realistic. The portrayal of the depth of hatred engendered by the bitter conflict between rancher and homesteader chills the reader, as does the character of Levi Bunting, Burroughs's foreman. A villain as evil as Bunting is not often realistic, but seems made out of cardboard and painted black. Cheek avoids that trap. As black as Bunting's character is, he's still believable. All in all, Cheek has written another Western that is filled with suspense and unexpected consequences. --Roundup Magazine