The Notorious Black Bart 1883: The Journey Back by A.E. Wasserman (review)

After reading a novella by A.E. Wasserman last year, I wanted to read more of this author’s historical fiction and landed on this slim volume that contains, within a frame of it being read by characters from other stories, a “dime novel” of Wells Fargo Detective Hume and his pursuit of the nefarious stage coach robber, Black Bart. And what a choice The Notorious Black Bart 1883 turned out to be! With just enough of the style to lend authentic flavor, complete with illustrative language such as “Bang! Bang!” the author has created a cat and mouse story told in propulsively short chapters that switch between perspectives of the lawman and the fugitive.

It was a fun touch to include interior artwork, with the dime novel portion of the book sectioned off by a vintage style front cover and a plain “back cover.” An exciting adventure story based on real people and events that might be even more enjoyable if read after meeting the characters in the author’s other books. Nicely done and great fun!

This review refers to a print copy that I voluntarily purchased and read. All opinions expressed are my own.

About the Book

Englishman Lord Langsford is leaving California after an adventurous visit, but finds more excitement in a Dime Novel that he shares with his two fellow travelers on the train bound to New York: This is the embellished but true tale of Black Bart and Special Agent James B. Hume of Wells Fargo & Company.

It’s California gold country and the notorious Black Bart robs his twenty-eighth Wells Fargo Stagecoach. The stage driver shoves down the heavy cash box then whips his team into a gallop away from the gunslinger. When the outlaw dismounts his horse to gather up his loot, a rattler slinks onto the road and bites him through his boot. He shoots off its head, but his horse bolts, leaving him snake bit and on foot. The gold from the local mines is heavy. He must carry the bounty out of the Sierra Mountains or die trying.

Special Agent James B. Hume of Wells Fargo & Company, a friend of Lord Langsford, has been after Black Bart for eight years. Now for the first time, Hume has some of the outlaw’s possessions. He has to use his wits, but the gunslinger has nearly a week’s head start. Can Hume catch the outlaw once and for all? Or will Black Bart escape to terrorize again?

The Notorious Black Bart 1883: The Journey Back by A.E. Wasserman | Archway, August 2018 | paperback, 124 pages