Bristlecone Peak:  Legend of the Golden Feather Series #1 - Dave Brown

Cerisaye's Review:

I’d probably have thought more of this book before reading Cap Iversen’s Dakota series.  I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy the story, because I did.  However, it’s just not up to Iversen’s standard.  Whereas Iversen’s love story arises naturally, slow and easy, out of his characters and plot, and never seems forced, Brown’s I’m afraid, is a little too self conscious and laboured for my taste.  But heck, how many gay westerns do we have?  Very few, and this series is ongoing, so I’m prepared to give Brown a chance to develop- this is his first novel, and really it’s not bad at all.

Jake Brady is a 24 year old farmer from Kentucky.  After a neighbour’s daughter names him father of her unborn child, he’s forced to run, taking the first train headed west, to Denver.  Jake is an innocent man-child, illiterate because his abusive Pa hauled him out of school to work the farm.  Told all his life he’s dumb, Jake has no self-esteem.  Luckily his mother gave him a friend, Jesus, who he believes watches over him.  Jake asks Jesus to find him a partner, a lifetime companion.  Jake likes men, his sexuality awakened by a passing army sergeant who also taught him exercises to make him big and strong, defence against those who call him sissy.

Meanwhile, Wiley Deluce, a quick-draw from Philadelphia, arrives in Denver to carry out an investigation for a client back east.  Wiley is an educated man who reads Whitman’s Leaves of Grass on the train (just like Benie Coulsen). Wiley had an Iroquois Grandfather, Gray Feather, who understood his desire for men, and appears to watch over him, helping find the elusive partner he seeks.

Wiley and Jake meet.  They are two real men, handsome hunks who turn heads wherever they go.  It’s like they’re destined to be together.  The two become blood brothers, a traditional ceremony of male union given poignancy by the spectre of AIDS hanging over contemporary gay life.  Jake’s neighbours, Seth Harris and his brood of crazy, sadistic sons, arrive in town in hot pursuit.  They want to hang Jake- and anyone who helps him.  Can Jake & Wiley escape their deadly vengeance?  There are sympathetic townspeople like Marshall Cline, rancher Belinda Castille, and Bill the hostler.  But what is the loathsome, dandified lawyer Billingsley up to?

It’s an exciting story, with plenty of scope to develop an intense love between Jake & Wiley.  They’re so deeply masculine yet show tender feelings and make sweet love (always offscreen and lacking the underlying eroticism of Iversen’s works ) together.  This book revels like all our gay westerns in a revisionist approach that rightly displays male love as something commonly accepted by all reasonable folk in a place of few women and an abundance of hardworking men.

Outside championing deep and lasting love between two men, I think the main strength of this book lies in the descriptions and action sequences.  Dialogue frequently doesn’t quite hit the mark and there are clunking plot devices that could’ve been avoided with a little subtlety.  But if you’re looking for authenticity, then Brown definitely succeeds.

The action takes place mostly in Colorado- Denver and the mining town of Alma and surrounding district of South Park.  Writing style is very simple, almost overly so.  You don’t get the lyrical evocation of place that makes something special of the Dakota books.  Yet Brown creates an environment for his story that conjures images of those high peaks, rolling hills and grassy plains of the area.  You feel the biting cold of winter and breathe that rich mountain air.  It just requires a little more effort.

My main criticism of the story is that it doesn’t work for me as a standalone.  Too many loose ends with the melodramatic feel of an episode to be continued.  I’m afraid I need a little more closure.  Too many questions unanswered so I felt cheated and disappointed.  A shame since I rather liked the rest of the book, and will definitely look for the sequel.  Give it a try.

Ladymol's Review:

I’m going to give you a quiz:

a.                   Do you fantasize about men with beards?

b.                  Do you long for the smell of man-sweat?

c.                   Do you think the size of a man’s muscles is more important than the size of his intellect?

d.                  Do you find farting funny?

e.                   Did most of your reading as a child consist of Boys’ Own stories?

f.                    Do you think mothers are sainted creatures demeaned by bullying fathers?

If you answered yes to all of the above then I’ve found the perfect book for you!

This book has the sophistication of an episode of The A Team. It’s got that sort of “I really shouldn’t be watching and enjoying this” amusement factor, too.

Set in the 1880s, Jake leaves his Kentucky home (dead sainted mother, dead bullying father) when his neighbours (the Harrises) claim that he’s impregnated the daughter. Innocent (one of what his father used to call “them sissies”), he heads for Colorado.

However, with superhuman tracking abilities (learnt from Boys’ Own edition # 1) the Harris family follow him: Pa (bully) and five brothers.

Jake is in his early twenties, and his whole romantic life has consisted of one night in the barn with a passing soldier, who took him in his arms and then taught him how to do press-ups (and you think that’s a euphemism for great sex? No, it’s press-ups. Muscles, see, they’re important).  He longs to meet his “partner”: a man with whom he can spend his life (preferably one with a beard, sweaty, and huge muscles—oh, and chest hair).

Lo and behold, in Colorado, his life being threatened by the Harrises, he’s rescued by a man with bulging muscles and a huge quantity of chest hair. Wiley is a mysterious stranger, well educated, a sharpshooter, and undercover on a secret mission.  He is also looking for a life-partner. Funny thing that.

Wiley takes up Jake’s cause. And no, I’m not making a pun. It’s about all he does take up. The sex in the book consists of huge bear hugs and the smelling of man-sweat.

I digress.

The Harrises track Jake and Wiley wherever they go (don’t forget the tracking ability). They try to kill Jake numerous times, making Wiley ride to his rescue. Which is okay. It takes Jake a number of times to work anything out, so being kidnapped and on the point of being killed three times just about makes it sink home that these men are NOT nice. However, Jake is an honourable man and he won’t hurt the Harrises—and this despite one of them being a torturer of animals and one having raped and murdered five men.

After deciding that they were meant to be life-partners, Wiley suggests they become blood brothers, and a small ceremony with a knife and their palms ensues (Boys’ Own Edition # 10). This theme (of them being blood brothers) then becomes the central focus of the book. Men come from far and wide to meet them! Stories are told of them! I’m sorry, but I pushed two bloody kids out of me—blood and guts shared for life (and some hair and teeth I won’t get back). I’m not that impressed by a nick and a drip on a palm. Must be a man thing.

The blood brothers then decide to avoid the Harrises by staying in the area and building a cabin. 

The enemy close in (funny old thing, that).

Wiley gets shot.

They’re holing up in the cabin.

They… Oh! No! Huge cliffhanger! Tune in for the next exciting episode of the Blood Brothers….

I think I should have read this wearing a leather vest. With chest hair. And maybe a manly beard.

Oh, I forgot the farting. There’s a very “funny”, drawn out joke about setting fire to an outhouse, which I tested on my seven-year old. He liked it.

This is the first in the series. I’m not sure I’m going to rush out and buy the rest.

Publisher: Golder Feather Press (we think this is a self-published book). ISBN: 1878406132

Buy from Lambda Rising Booksellers in the States

Back to Fiction Review Index