I’ve read more than a few westerns and generally enjoy the genre when I’m looking for something light and quick (‘light’ meaning not a lot of subplots and characters that need to be followed with an organizer). Yet, to my memory, I’ve never read a Max Brand book. Borrowing this book from my library, I decided to change that.
Joe May is a tall, lanky sixteen year old, determined to set out on his own and make his own way and become his own boss on his own plot of Alaskan land. But as we meet him, he hasn’t eaten in a day and a half and he’s feeling pretty desperate when he wanders into bar. There, he meets up with Joe Massey in order to do a job. Joe is a respected (and feared) man in the area, and working for Massey immediately gives Joe some credibility. Massey takes a liking to the boy and keeps him on, enlisting his help in getting his dog back from Massey’s sworn enemy, Arnie Calmont.
The dog, faithful to a fault to Massey, once belonged to Calmont. And Calmont and Massey were once friends and partners and known all over the Yukon. Now the dog, known as Alec the Great, is at the center of their rivalry. Even the woman who puts herself up for auction, Marjorie, can’t compete with the company of a faithful dog.
My story synopsis doesn’t really do this book justice. This is really a fun YA western story. It’s a coming-of-age story for Joe May, even though it’s Massey and Alec the Great, and Calmont to some degree, who provide the action of the story. But we see the story through Joe’s eyes and what he learns from it. What he (and we) learn is that a faithful companion, whether or human or canine (and most likely it’s canine) is important to a man on his own (of course you’re not really on your own if you have a companion).
The book moves along swiftly, and the action is well told. This struck me a lot as similar to books such as The Call of the Wild but from a different perspective. Think A Boy and His Dog but in the historical Yukon rather than the apocalyptic desert.
I enjoyed this and am looking forward to reading more Max Brand, wondering if they are all YA targeted or if some are a little ‘harder’ western.
Looking for a good book? Sixteen in Nome by Max Brand is a ‘northern’ (as opposed to ‘western’) YA book that is adventurous and exciting and a quick read.
I borrowed this book from my local library.
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Sixteen in Nome
author: Max Brand
publisher: Leisure Books
paperback, 240 pages