Rezo Strange - Dan Dakota (sometimes seen as Dan Brown)
Another Western, along the lines of the Dakota Series by Cap Iversen (Arson, Silver Saddles, Rattler). This is more a novella than a novel, and I read it in an evening. To be honest, once I’d started, I couldn’t put it down.
I do love the Western genre, and I guess I’m returning to it after a long absence, but I enjoyed this little book almost as much as Dakota, although it doesn’t have Dakota’s depth.
Rezo Strange, in his late twenties, an orphan since a young child has led a wild life: part of Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show; a trail hand; and now a would-be rancher. His ownership of his patch of land is disputed by the local thug Scott MacPhearson.
One night he gets into a fight with Scott and wakes up not remembering what happened. A young man named Gage, who worked in the saloon, brought him home and cared for him. From that moment on, a relationship blossoms between them that changes Rezo’s view of the world and his life. He wants Gage likes he’s wanted nothing else, and the feeling seems to be returned. But events conspire to put this new love in danger. Scott’s bloodlust for Rezo is fuelled by his insane hatred of his way of life—his loving of men. He taunts Rezo, and his acts become increasingly despicable until Rezo is forced into a showdown.
The sex is delightfully written—never graphic enough to offend even the most delicate of readers, but able to give you a real tingle at the same time. The love between Gage and Rezo is delightful (very reminiscent of that between Dakota and Bennie). The similarities between this novel and the Dakota series are so striking that both Cerisaye and I independently came to the conclusion that Cap Iversen and Dan Dakota might be one and same person!
I highly recommend this novel.
I was concerned that love of Cap Iversen’s Dakota series would influence my reaction to this novel. How could any cowboy and his sweet lovin’ man hope to compete with Dakota and Bennie?
It’s1890, and the setting is South Dakota, the town of Deadwood: I could hear Calamity Jane singing “The Deadwood Stage”. The opening line is a grabber. And all the way to the end it’s just about perfect. Of course Rezo isn’t Dakota. He isn’t a gunfighter for starters. However the books are perfectly complementary for this too is a beautifully crafted gay romance. This novel is hard to find and don’t be put off by the cheesy cover. The only quibble I have with Dan Dakota is that it is sadly a one-off.
Rezo is recovering from the mother of all hangovers and the effects of a drunken brawl the night before. He’s at his ranch outside Deadwood, being looked after by Gage, a 19 year old who works at the MotherLode saloon. Rezo got into a fight with Scott MacPherson. There’s a feud between the two, over Rezo’s land. MacPherson has the title deeds; if he reneges on the next payment Rezo loses his ranch, and times are tough. The well’s running dry and the cattle are starving.
Rezo acquired his land with money saved from glory days with Cody’s Wild West Show and six years riding cattle trails. His dream of having his own place far from the city slums that killed his parents sustained Rezo through hard times. No one is going to take that away. Rezo went West to be free, escaping from his orphanage, and losing his virginity to a man called Colton aged 14. For he likes boys, at a time when a man showing his love for another man was a sodomite and faced punitive punishments like 10 years hard labour- death would’ve been too merciful.
Gage is a good-looking boy with the fully developed body of a man,. He has a flaw: one leg is shorter than the other. Gage is an orphan like Rezo, and overcoming his handicap made him strong. His story will break your heart. Three years eaten away by hate convinced Gage it shouldn’t rule a man’s life. It’s a lesson he wants Rezo to learn before anger kills him. Gage has good reason to want Rezo alive and well.
Rezo is hot-headed and inclined to make trouble for himself. He was put out of the Wild West Show when caught in bed with a preacher’s son in Baltimore. The boy, Slade, was 19, same as Gage, but wouldn’t stand up to his Pa. Rezo’s whole life is work, drinking whiskey at the MotherLode and keeping company with cowboys or passing strangers. He’s living his dream but it’s not enough. He’s lonely and ready for love. Meeting Gage is the best thing that ever happened to him, if only he can stay around.
This novel is more sexually explicit than the Dakota books, but has the same delicious eroticism. Rezo is on fire for Gage, but opportunities are few and far between until he deals with MacPherson. It becomes obvious what Rezo’s enemy’s problem really is. Many men, even in the free and easy West, can’t come to terms with their desires, unlike Rezo and Dakota. Homophobia turns men into brutes, as we see so effectively in the Jas Anderson novels. The story is tense and well paced, building to a dramatic confrontation in the desert, when Rezo gets his chance for revenge. It’s nail-biting stuff as he battles it out with MacPherson , a man driven by self-loathing to kill without compunction. Will Rezo realise his new dream, going further West, to the hospitable environment of California, with Gage by his side to build a new life? Maybe they’ll meet Dakota and Bennie.
I see there’s a new Western TV series, Deadwood, that’s a big hit in America because it’s raunchy and violent. Yet there are no gay characters. We’ve seen in our reading that men wanting men happened all over the West- soldiers, ranchers, cowboys. Some messed around through necessity, others by choice. To ignore such a vital aspect of history is wrong- not to mention a missed opportunity. Incorporating convincing gay characters into mainstream shows shouldn’t be too much to expect. Rezo, Dakota and men like them built the West. Their story deserves the widest audience.
Published by Leaf Press, 1981, ISBN 0-940360-00-4
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