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Appaloosa [Mass Market Paperback]

Robert B. Parker
3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

June 6 2006

When Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch arrive in Appaloosa, they find a town suffering at the hands of a renegade rancher who’s already left the city marshal and one of his deputies dead. Cole and Hitch are used to cleaning up after scavengers, but this one raises the stakes by playing not with the rules—but with emotion.



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From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. It's been years since Parker has won a major literary award for a novel (he did collect a Grand Master trophy from MWA in 2002), but that may change with this stunning western, a serious contender for a Spur. This is only Parker's second western, after the Wyatt Earp story Gunman's Rhapsody (or third if you count the Spenser PI quasi-western Potshot), but he takes command of the genre, telling an indelible story of two Old West lawmen. The chief one is Virgil Cole, new marshal of the mining/ranching town of Appaloosa (probably in Colorado); his deputy is Everett Hitch, and it's Hitch who tells the tale, playing Watson to Cole's Holmes. The novel's outline is classic western: Cole and Hitch take on the corrupt rancher, Randall Bragg, who ordered the killing of the previous marshal and his deputy. Bragg is arrested, tried and sentenced to be hung, but hired guns bust him out, leading to a long chase through Indian territory, a traditional high noon (albeit at 2:41 p.m.) shootout between Cole's men and Bragg's, a further escape and, at book's end, a final showdown. Along the way, Cole falls for a piano-playing beauty with a malevolent heart, whose manipulations lead to that final, fatal confrontation. With such familiar elements, Parker breaks no new ground. What he does, and to a magnificent degree, is to invest classic tropes with vigor, through depth of character revealed by a glance, a gesture or even silence. A consummate pro, Parker never tells, always shows, through writing that's bone clean and through a superb transferal of the moral issues of his acclaimed mysteries (e.g., the importance of honor) to the western. This is one of Parker's finest. Agent, Helen Brann. (June) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Randall Bragg owns the small frontier town of Appaloosa. He and his crew assault the women, steal from the merchants, and shoot anyone who gets in the way (including the marshal). Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch have wandered through the west cleaning up towns like Appaloosa. They are hired guns, but they doggedly revere the law. Cole and Hitch back Bragg down with a minimum of bloodshed and, with the help of a formerly recalcitrant witness, convict him of murder. But Cole's weakness for the beautiful but deeply flawed Allie makes possible Bragg's escape. When he eventually returns with a presidential pardon and a veneer of civility, Cole is trapped: if he kills Bragg, he'll have violated his own code, but if he doesn't, he'll lose Allie to his rival. Narrating the story over the distance of many years, Hitch takes stock of his friendship with Cole and achieves a degree of independence. Parker, author of the Spenser, Sunny Randall, and Jesse Stone series, writes ceaselessly about male bonding, codes of honor, and hard men doing hard things. But never has he explored so convincingly the selflessness--and the acceptance of another's flaws--that forms the core of any true friendship. Parker fans will expect the action and the smart-ass banter, but it's the sense of melancholy and irrevocable sacrifice that will separate this fine novel from most of the author's recent work. Wes Lukowsky
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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First Sentence
It was a long time ago, now, and there were many gunfights to follow, but I remember as well, perhaps, as I remember anything, the first time I saw Virgil Cole shoot. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

3.2 out of 5 stars
3.2 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A perfect Western Sept. 19 2011
By Lotusland Lady TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Mass Market Paperback|Verified Purchase
Appaloosa is the first of a series of four stories really, (they are barely novels) featuring Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch. The others, Brimstone, Resolution and the Blue-Eyed Devil, all are just a good as the first one. In fact, if you are not swept away and utterly charmed by Appaloosa, give the rest a miss.

I confess to having discovered Robert B. Parker too late for a fan letter, but not too late to hunt up everything he wrote. Most are very good, some are great, and these four books are among his best.

Like most of his books they are primarily "buddy" stories involving characters whose essential flaws are the engines that compel them to be better than the common man. They describe virtue and honor and compassion and love between men whose lives are about as disruptable and dangerous as the life any fictional hero could be.

Hitch and Cole kill ruthlessly and without remorse, their love life is exclusively with whores, they drink continuously and their futures are limited and yet I would give much if my world could be half as fulfilling and I could live in the moment and with the grace of these two friends.

Ultimately Parker was a moralist. He is also a graceful, spare writer with never a false or unnecessary word.
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3.0 out of 5 stars RBP goes Deadwood Nov. 18 2005
By Pol Sixe TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
Two laconic buddies quick with their guns, on the side of justice of course, a woman in between to have it explained why why why they do what they do - its Spenser/Hawk/Susan rejigged as Cole/Hitch/Allie. Not quite the same but a lot of similarities to "Cold Service" - written concurrently? A fair read, not exactly Larry McMurtry calibre but an OK "8 gauge". An interesting twist and ending for the heavy. Keep it up Bob, always entertaining, and we'll see how "School Days" fits in.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Sorry, this aint a REAL western Aug. 15 2006
Format:Paperback
As someone who grew up on a ranch and lived a few years in Idaho, I know something about the west, and this book did not come off with much authenticity. I love a good western, but it must be good and real, Like "Lonesome Dove". This book was like a cheap TV version of the west written by some guy from New York City (NEW YORK CITY!!!!!). If you are looking for a story about the real west--modern west--try "Across the High Lonesome."
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Flawed but entertaining July 9 2009
By Prairie Pal TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
To call Robert B. Parker a formulaic writer is to do him no disservice. Over the years Parker has cranked out novel after novel and found a winning combination of characters and scenarios; readers have gobbled up millions of his products and found long airplane journeys made more pleasant by having one of his books at hand. By now the Spenser and Jesse Stone thrillers pretty much write themselves so it is a relief to find Parker turning to the Western genre.

In "Appaloosa" Parker has created a fine pair of law-making buddies for the dusty plains: Virgil Cole, elemental and tempestuous, and his side-kick, the better-educated and more reflective Everett Hitch. The two of them roam the prairies looking for towns to tame. In Appaloosa they find decent citizens terrorized by local landowner Bragg and his gang of gunmen and set out to bring the villain to justice. Into this mix Parker injects a lady of negotiable virtue who captures Cole's heart but who brings him only danger and misery.

Readers will not mind too much that there is nothing new here; they will be glad to find that it is done well. Parker strains too much at the wild stallion imagery but he can be forgiven for stumbling occasionally in what is a new field for him. Naturally there are sequels.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  149 reviews
56 of 60 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Review of Appalosa by Robert B. Parker June 22 2005
By C. Baker - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Robert B. Parker has offered a western written in his usual fast paced, clipped writing style that is highly engaging and entertaining. While not a literary masterpiece, Parker does an excellent job of creating unique fascinating characters, providing subtle insights into them, and posing ethical dilemmas that his characters work out using their own internal moral structure.

Appaloosa introduces us to two marauding law men - Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch. The story is told in the first person from the point of view of Hitch, who plays second fiddle to Cole, a seasoned and dangerous gunman. Cole and Hitch are hired by the aldermen of Appaloosa, a town that is being terrorized by a nefarious rancher named Randall Bragg. Bragg and his men murder the previous Marshal and now take whatever they want from the town - be it whiskey, food, or women. Cole and Hitch are hired to put an end to town's suffering. They eventually arrest Bragg for the murder and once convicted help transport him to be hung. Not surprisingly, Bragg escapes with the help of some hired gunmen, two brothers who even Cole is apprehensive of. This leads to, of course, a gun fight between the two sides. Through all this, Cole has fallen for a deeply flawed and dangerous woman, Ms. French, who he refuses to leave despite her treacherous ways. This sets up more drama at the novel's conclusion.

While this western follows a similar plot line as many novels in its genre, and there is nothing really new or unique here, it does have some distinguishing characteristics. First, it's clear that Cole and Hitch walk a fine line between being law abiding citizens and simply assassins, and it's a line they may have crossed in the past, and seem to be in constant danger of crossing in the novel. First and foremost they are hired guns with the cloak of legality and they set their ethical parameters to meet whatever moral code they have constructed for themselves. Secondly, the character of Ms. French introduces a great dilemma in the novel for Cole - and for Hitch - which is very cleverly wrapped up in the novel's conclusion.

This was very entertaining and fast paced novel for a lazy afternoon of reading.
21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars On the Stretch July 1 2005
By Richard B. Schwartz - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
As I've written before, it's always good to get Parker off of autopilot, out of Boston and put him on a slight stretch. Under those conditions you see his real skills as a writer. In a different time and a different setting he is forced to develop a sense of place, a sense of language and a sense of character and he's always up to the task. There's no feeling of exaggeration, with heavyhanded indications that he's now in his 'western mode'. The people, places, language, and attentiveness to nuance are all spot on. As in all good genre writing there is a faithfulness to expectation. The plot is traditional--the nasty, tyrannical, lawless rancher vs. the hapless townfolk, who bring in the hired guns--and there are nice set pieces (a tracking scene across great distances, ruminations on gender relationships in the old west, some local color and historical authenticity with a Kiowa brave counting coup). My only reservation concerns the ending, which comes a little too quickly, a little too neatly, and is a tad short on blood, gore, and justice/vengeance. Nevertheless, this is a strong western, at least the equal of its predecessor and top summer reading.
21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thoughtful, melancholy western but also funny & exciting June 28 2005
By Joseph P. Menta, Jr. - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
"Appaloosa" is a quick, involving, but thoughtful reading experience. The characters and situations can be taken on their own terms as exciting story elements, but also as metaphors for old time America making way, for better or worse, for a new America.

It is also very interesting to see Mr. Parker put a new spin on his frequent theme of personal codes and how they make the man: namely, it examines what can happen when a violent but law-abiding sheriff (a guy who is an expert killer but who will kill only when the law says it is okay for him to do so), goes head to head with a rich sociopath who is able to buy the law and make it work to his own advantage.

In the end, one character makes a decision and a sacrifice that allows the old ways to go on a little longer, but it's clear that the victory is a temporary one, and that the slow encroachment of new America- a place of many comforts and benefits, but also a place where wealth often speaks louder than justice- was only temporarily slowed down.

Like "Gunman's Rhapsody" (another western) and "Double Play", this is another of the occasional novels Mr. Parker writes that do not feature any of his popular continuing detective characters. And like all Mr. Parker's novels- the ones that feature continuing characters and the ones that don't- this one is well worth your time.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Better than I first thought: 4+ out of 5 Dec 13 2008
By Leo - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback|Verified Purchase
**EDIT**
After watching the movie again (twice actually) and reading the book another time, I really rethought the review and the book in general. I have come to realize that this book has a lot going for it and it seems simple only on the surface. Once I reread this book I saw how amazing the story telling really was and I was shocked that I had missed the deep connection between Virgil and Everett through this type of dialogue.
The style I thought was "simplistic" was really akin to an old timer sitting down after the turn of the century and telling is great grandson of his old life. I have fond memories of my grandfather telling me his stories and that renewed my vigor for the book's style.
Now that I have rethought this book I would give it 4+ out of 5. It is just that good to me.
**EDIT**

I have read a lot of the reviews for this book and they range from outstanding, to nothing special. I have to agree with both sides.

I went and saw the movie when it came out and was extremely impressed. I had to buy the book to see where Ed Harris drew this amazing story. Needless to say, I was somewhat disappointed.

This book is very, let me repeat that, VERY simplistic. It reads closely to what I would imagine a screenplay would. It does create an interesting flavor with the strong silent type of narrative in Everett Hitch's voice, but really if I didn't have the movie itself in mind it would have only been a mediocre novel at best.

Buy it only if you are a fan of the author or want another look at the movie.
22 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great Western and one of Parker's all time best July 24 2005
By Andre 2015 - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is simply great writing. You truely can see the tough guys in front of you, hear the gunsmoke and feel the wind and sand blow into your eyes and ears - woooow.

It's like a movie. And it doesn't disappoint that movies like that have been made before. Nobody writes scenes like Robert B.Parker. Probably never will.

The story is simple. Or so it seems at first sight. A town is being terrorized by a rich guy. The townfolks ask for help. In come Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch. From then on the law is theirs. And nobody is going to change that.

The rich guy tries his best, sends in his gunslingers. They end up dead. Cole and Hitch collect the rich guy. Want a judge to put an end to the crimes that are being commited. That's when things start to get complicated for Cole. First there's Allie, a girl who's got Cole wrapped around her fingers. But then a bunch of shooters from Cole's past also enter the scene as do some 15 Kiowas.

You need to read the rest for yourself.

A great story to be read in one sitting, as I said, like the best of the Western movies. It's all about loyalty, trust and friendship.
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