This tongue in cheek story revolves around an endearing character called Captain Coytus, an undercover Union man who got to know Jesse James and his family. There’s a great deal more to it than that, of course, the story has many mini stories within it and the whole thing is couched within the story of a student presenting the story for assessment and haggling with his professor over his grade.
It’s a unique idea and is often very amusing, though I admit that a lot of what I figured was clever referencing was lost on me because, apart from having heard the name of Jesses James, I don’t know anything about US history. At least I gained some idea of what the civil war was about from reading this book.
The central characters are well developed, and the banter between the Captain and his companions, and his cheeky and clever methods for dealing with his enemies were very entertaining.
The plot suffered from wandering syndrome and through the copy editing is pretty clean, the book is in need of a good developmental/structural edit. It would benefit from being tightened considerably; as it is, it trips itself up through indulgence in it’s own witticism.
My favourite quote in writing is by Dr Seusse: “The writer who breeds more words than he needs makes reading a chore for the reader who reads.” Unfortunately extraneous words are rife in this book and it did became a chore to read.
Examples are the many songs we have to read through. Does anyone actually read any more than one song? One song – at the most two – would have shown all the qualities of the singer; the others added nothing extra. Stories such as the poo poo bird and others also detracted rather than added to the story, for they seemed to have no purpose. Why were they there? There were many seemingly extraneous scenes, dialogue and scenes that would have been better had they been cut by half. They slowed the pace and I lost the plot amongst the sidetracks.
On top of that we had some extraneous and intrusive dialogue tags like ‘commented’ and ‘contradicted’, and my pet hate, Captain ‘opined’. ‘Said’ is the preferred tag in modern fiction.
This is all a great shame because the idea is great, the characters wonderful and the writer clearly has potential. All it needs is someone to cut the clutter and we’d have a 4 star, even maybe a 5 star book. The potential is there.