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by Scott Phillips

Category: Fiction / Historical
304 pages; ISBN: 0345461002

Rating: 9/10  (Ratings explained)
Reviewer: Harriet Klausner


Scott Phillips
Ballantine, Feb 2004, $23.95, 304 pp.
ISBN: 0345461002

In late 1872 into 1873 Cottonwood, Kansas saloon owner Bill Ogden has no problems with his wife having extra marital affairs as the duo lives apart with Bill mostly residing above his saloon while Ninna calls the family ranch her humble abode. However, Bill wishes her choice in bedmates were of a higher quality though he also cheats with a few lowlifes too.

He takes exception to Ninna’s latest pathetic lover by shooting holes in the bowler hat of the salesman. Not long afterward, someone kills the pots and pans traveling peddler. The townsfolk wonder if perhaps Bill dispatched a rival, but he questions the disproportionate number of vanishings and murders. He begins to hone in on self proclaimed mystic healer Katie Bender and her mother as clever killers of the Plains. However, Bill switches concerns when Chicago industrialist Marc Leval offers him a business partnership that unbeknownst to his new associate includes the man’s wife in his bed. As the violence increases, Bill finally heads west to start over as a photographer wondering if anything will ever bring him back to Cottonwood.

'Cottonwood is an amusing western tale that provides a distinctive look at the Old West through the eyes of an antihero over about two decades. The story line ironically tears apart beliefs established by Hollywood and the genre, but also pays homage to the Wild West. The tale lacks a central plot drifting from one major anecdote to another in a fiction kind of manner in which Bill serves as the focus. Still fans of satires will appreciate this humorous look that is mindful of the west of Jane Fonda (Cat Ballou) not John Wayne.

Harriet Klausner


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