Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Robert B. Parker: Resolution

Robert B. Parker’s Resolution is a follow on to his first western, Appaloosa. It features the same main characters, Everett Hitch and Virgil Cole. Although in this case Hitch is in the town of Resolution for quite a while before Virgil Cole drifts in to hang out with him.

Everett Hitch takes a job in Resolution as “looout” in a saloon owned by Amos Wolfson. His eight gauge shotgun proves to be an effective counter to handguns, and he quickly establishes control within the saloon. Ultimately he is seen as a protector by many of the less advantaged in town. Protector was not in his job description, but there really isn’t much Wolfson can do about it.

It turns out that Hitch has stepped into a rivalry – ultimately violent – between Wolfson and Eamon O’Malley, the owner of the local copper mine. Other factions include a group of homesteaders, loosely organized by Bob Redmond, and some lumbermen working at Fritz Stark’s sawmill.

O’Malley hires a pair of gun fighters, Cato Tillson and Frank Rose, know as Cato and Rose. It’s clear that O’Malley does not need fighters to operate his mine. Pretty soon both Wolfson and O’Malley are hiring more fighters, but none on a level with Hitch and Cole, or Cato and Rose. I’m not giving much away to say that fighting ensues.

Based on a sampling of two, I’m deciding that a signature attribute of a Parker western is that the traditional western conflict gets resolved early. Everything points to a building conflict between Wolfson and O’Mally leading to a climax at the end of the book. But not with Parker. The Wolfson/O’Malley issue is resolved early. Where Parker excels is in the exploration of the aftermath of the conflict.

Do Hitch and Cole take actions because it’s the law, because it’s right, because they can, or some combination? When a non-shooter hires shooters to gain control, who ultimately ends up in control? What is the value of understanding your personal limitations?

With its terse dialog, interesting characters, and action Resolution is a fun book. With its emphasis on the time past the normal western’s climax, it is a uniquely interesting book.

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