Thursday, December 14, 2017

Unforgettable Book: A Time For Hanging by Bill Crider

What happened was that they'd all taken the easiest way out, Harl thought. They'd let a man get away with murder because they didn't have the gumption to stand up to him. Maybe they were afraid of gettin' hurt, or maybe they were afraid to take the side of a dead meskin against another white man. For whatever reason, they'd gone along.

And now Harl was afraid they were doing it again.

Paco Morales is a fifteen year old Mexican living with his sisters and widowed mother at the outskirts of a Texan town sometime in the last decades of the nineteenth century. One day while returning home, he comes across the body of a young girl whom he recognises as Liz Randall, the young daughter of the town's preacher. Afraid that he would be accused of killing her, he runs away but in his panic strikes against a tree and loses consciousness.

Meanwhile, the preacher,Wayne Randall, reports that his daughter is missing to the Sheriff, Ward Vincent, who in turn sends a few men along with his deputy, Jack Simkins, to search for the girl. Soon they come across the girl's body as also Paco - who after regaining consciousness falls into their hands. The men not only beat him senseless but also decide to hang him, certain that he being a Mexican is responsible for the girl's murder. However, Simkins shows real steel and asks them not to take the law in their own hands and hauls Paulo to the jail instead.

The sheriff when appraised of this finds himself on shaky ground. He didn't want to become the sheriff and becoming that did not want to get into any trouble. Meanwhile, Paco's mother, who not only knows a few things about Liz but also has no faith in the law - her husband being a victim of a miscarriage of justice - rescues her son from his cell and hides him in the shed of their house.

Things get further complicated with the entry of Benteen, the richest man of the town along with his daughter, Lucille, who is engaged to the foreman, Charley. Charley was earlier into a relationship with Liz and Lucille doesn't take kindly to the fact.

The town is on the boil, the preacher faces his own demons, and as the men braying for Paco's blood and ready to lynch him start towards his house, the Sheriff has to decide which way would he turn.

There are certain books that are so engrossing that not only do you finish them in one sitting but also start over once again after finishing them. This is what happened with this book. The author, Bill Crider, raises a lot of issues - racism, sexism, Christianity, justice, mob and herd mentality - in this rather short novel (under 200 pages) and makes you reflect on your own stand. How often we take the easy way out and then try to camouflage our guilt and cowardice. I loved how the author makes us privy to the thoughts of those riding towards Paco's house and their own conflicting thoughts about what they are doing. Likewise with the Sheriff and his deputy who know where their duties lie but would rather not  take on a whole town.

Also I always thought that Westerns were about men and guns and horses but Bill gives us strong female characters who are ready to stand up for what is right and that added to my liking for the novel.

I read the book in an e-format (Open Library has many of Bill's books) but I am planning to purchase a paper copy of it as this is a book for keeps.

Highly recommended.

And here's an essay by Bill that I found on the Net where he talks about the mystery element in Westerns and mentions this book in passing. Truth to tell  that while I have always been interested in mysteries, in this book I was so riveted on Paco and his fate that the identification of the murderer took second seat.


First Line: Paco Morales had seen the woman before, had seen her often in fact, at least for the past month or so, despite the fact that his mother would always send him out of the shack when the woman was there.

First Published: 1989


Today we are honouring, the author, Bill Crider @ Pattinase. Please head over there for the other entries.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Review: Krantiveer Chandrashekhar Azad aur Unke Do Gadhar Sathi

Krantiveer Chandrashekhar Azad aur Unke Do Gadhar Sathi Krantiveer Chandrashekhar Azad aur Unke Do Gadhar Sathi by Dharmender Goud and S.N. Sharma
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is actually two-books-in-one. The first part of the book is a biography of the famous Indian revolutionary Chandrashekhar Azad who attained martyrdom while fighting with British police in February 1931. For a long time, a debate has raged as to who betrayed the whereabouts of Azad to the police. While Virbhadra Tiwari has usually been seen as a traitor, the second part of the book - which consists of parts of an earlier book by a British secret service agent, Dharmender Goud - points to another man also. According to Goud, it was noted Hindi writer, Yashpal, who too was an informer of the police and had leaked the news of Azad to the police. As I had already read the book by Goud earlier, this was not news to me but since Yashpal is a renowned author whose books are prescribed in Universities and who was also also awarded the Padma Vibhushan by the Govt. of India, these charges should be investigated thoroughly.


First Line: San 1857 ki asafal sainya aur jan-kranti ke baad bhi, Bharat ki janta azadi ke liye sat prayas rat rahi.

Publication: Delhi: Bhagat Singh Vichar manch, 2016
Pages: 224

Source: Bought at WBF, Delhi in 2016.

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Review: Lajpat Rai: Life and Work

Lajpat Rai: Life and Work Lajpat Rai: Life and Work by Feroz Chand
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Our writing the freedom struggle has so favoured the Gandhi-Nehru families that other stalwarts - even of the Congress - have been totally sidelined. One such person is the 'Lion of Punjab' Lala Lajpat Rai. This biography by one of his closest disciple does fill the lacuna somewhat.


First Line: Barely ten days to the opening event of the season of Christmas festivity, and, of a sudden, Sir Hugh Gough, the British C-in-C, cancels his grand ball fixed well in advance for the eleventh evening of December.

Publication: ND: Publications Division of India, 1978.
Pages: 590

Source: Bought 2006.

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Review: Dekha, Socha, Samjha

Dekha, Socha, Samjha Dekha, Socha, Samjha by Yashpal
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

An okay read which I read just for the first essay in the collection: a visit to Sevgram by the author and his meeting with Gandhi.


First Line: San 1939 mein doosra mahayudh aarambh hua to british samrajyavadi sarkar ne Bharat ki ichha ke virudh bhi desh ko us yudh mein lapet liya.

First Published: 1951
Pages: 143
Source: CL[891.433]

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Review: The shadow guest

The shadow guest The shadow guest by Hillary Waugh
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I knew of Hillary Waugh as the author of policeprocedurals and that's what I expected this book to be. However, it is a very different book with just that touch of the supernatural that sent shivers down my spine. Read it in the dark of the night as rain poured outside and it added to that delicious creepy feeling.

Highly recommended.


First Line: Though I am well inland now, when the wind blows stiffly over the moors and the low dark puffs of cumulus roll across the sky, or when the rain beats its heavy, steady siege and the dampness crawls into my clothes with me, I swear I smell the sea and hear the gulls again.

Pages: 268
Source: Open Library

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Review: aapbeeti: Kale Pani ki Karawas Kahani

aapbeeti: Kale Pani ki Karawas Kahani aapbeeti: Kale Pani ki Karawas Kahani by Bhai Parmanand
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The writer was a Professor of Modern European History at National College, Lahore and thus was a teacher of Bhagat Singh and Sukhdev. This was his memoir of his days in captivity at the Andamans. The book was proscribed by the British. Reading it, I realised, how much we have abused and continue to abuse our freedom.

First Line: Meri Khanatalashi hue aaj char din beet chuke the.

Pages: 171

Source: OTS since 2004

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Review: Gandhi Benaqaab

Gandhi Benaqaab Gandhi Benaqaab by Hansraj Rahbar
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a brave book since many authors would shy away from exposing the 'Mahatma'. However in doing so Rahbar exposes his own prejudices. Nevertheless, it is a well-researched critique of Gandhi and his politics.

First Line: Desh ki shashya shyamla bhumi par Shiv ka tandav naach ab hona hi chahiye.

Pages: 287

Source: Bought at WBF, Delhi in 2006

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