Writing 300 novels in a roughly 30 year period is a hell of an achievement. Writing 300 that are solid is something else again. But that's what James Reasoner has done. With his new novel, DANCING WITH DEAD MEN, Reasoner has brought his entire bag of tricks to the party, and the fine craftsmanship he's known for is on full display.
The story contains many of the same themes that we see in a lot of Reasoner's work, most notably the idea of the protagonist, a hard man, groping toward something better than what he was and encountering nearly insurmountable obstacles along the way. The biggest obstacle, of course, being the weight of his own past, and his doubts about being able to affect a positive change.
In DEAD MEN, the hero is one Logan Handley, former gun-for-hire, now crippled by the onset of a paralysis affecting his left arm and right leg. He travels to Hot Springs Arkansas in search of a cure and finds himself almost inadvertently entering a new, kinder phase of life, making friends and working like a normal person. That is until he foils a bank robbery and finds himself in the employ of a rich lumber baron-- next he knows, Logan is pulled back into the role of gunman. When an old enemy of his hooks up with the lumber baron's business rival, and Logan's new friends are threatened, all bets are off and our hero has to reconcile both sides of his nature to save the day.
The whole thing unfolds at a pretty breakneck pace. Reasoner excels at building momentum from scene to scene, never skipping any opportunity for action, and making the reader feel a real emotional investment in the characters. This is what he's always done, and it's the reason why he's a writer's writer.
Here's to 300 more.