Unless historical figures leave behind detailed journals and letters, it's often hard to know what was going through their minds when they became memorable. "Showdown in Blue Cane" by David Galster works around that hurdle with a historical novel built around an actual 1903 gunfight in Rector, Arkansas between Mart Vowell and Bill Lovejoy.
Bill Lovejoy was the foreman of the Leonard Plantation, the largest in that region of Arkansas, but he wanted more. He was ruthless in his pursuit of money and power. He was used to getting what he wanted, but Vowell was just as determined to keep what little he had.
The gunfight left Lovejoy dead and though there was a trial in which Vowell was convicted and later hung, understanding what brought the two men to the point of gunplay can still be murky.
Galster has recreated the stories of the Lovejoy and Vowell families to try and understand them better. He goes back decades to and tells the stories of the families building on their troubles to the point of the showdown. He creates a multitude of characters and family members that can be sometimes confusing. However, as the story continues, the characters become more familiar and easier to follow.
When you finish "Showdown in Blue Cane," you will not only know about the this Arkansas gunfight, but you will have a great picture in your head of life in turn-of-the-century Arkansas.
My major complaint with the story is that I had trouble orienting myself to the year when various chapters took place. It would have been nice to have the year in the chapter title or mentioned somehow in the first few paragraphs of the chapter. Otherwise, I came away from the book having learned one more story that makes American history so fascinating to me.
(reviewed 11 days after purchase)