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by Terry Burns
Published by RiverOak, 2005
Highly recommended by: Shannon McNear
When outlaw Amos Taylor happens upon a clothesline full of parson's garb, he decides it's the perfect gig impersonate a preacher as his means of disguise after a stage holdup, then ride in as the passengers' knight in shining armor. What he doesn't reckon on is getting delayed by townsfolk hungry for a good sermon, and being found out by a blind black man whose faith is, indeed, deep enough to shake a mountain even that of his own cynical unbelief. Throw in a young woman of impeccable virtue who finds it way too exciting to be held up by a suave and debonair gunman, and you have the makings of a cracking good story.
The characters are well-drawn and engaging, and the storyline absorbing. Though the author explores in detail Amos's journey toward salvation, the discussions about spiritual things flow naturally from the characters' struggles without seeming contrived or preachy. Amos rather makes a fool of himself early in the story, and his various attempts at fleecing people rebound on him with oftentimes humorous results. Yet he shows just enough promise to keep the reader hoping that he'll see the light, and even in his unbelief is a man of honor, and fights against prejudice.
I appreciated the author's willingness to touch upon hard issues hypocrisy in the church, late nineteenth-century attitudes about color, the sinfulness of human nature without imposing modern sensibilities. Historical details also seemed tight.
Kudos to Terry Burns for a story that colorfully paints the love and faithfulness of God alongside life's reality. This is his debut novel with the CBA, and I look forward to seeing more of his work! (December 2004)
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