Picks and Pans Review: Outlaw

updated 04/09/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 04/09/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Warren Kiefer

Lee Oliver Garland, this novel's hero and narrator, has been both a willing participant and a more-than-casual spectator to the calamitous events chronicled in this novel, which spans nearly a century. As a child, he stares in stunned silence at what Apache warriors have done to his parents; barely a teenager, he rustles cattle and has half an arm chewed off by a wolf. He is a Teddy Roosevelt Rough Rider and survives battles against Pancho Villa, up San Juan Hill and across the Mexican plains. He kills a man, is double-crossed by a trusted partner, escapes the scandals of Teapot Dome, makes a fortune from oil fields and loses it all at the gambling tables. In between he loved and lied as best and as often as he could.

Outlaw is the most colorful Western saga since Lonesome Dove. Written at a Pony Express pace by TV-film writer Kiefer, it is the well-told story of Garland's life. The characters encountered read as true as history, their lives driven along by the raw strength of the narrative, such as when Lee and a friend, Charlie Bruce, discuss the financial merits of a war with Spain:

" 'The army will need meat, lots of it. What is a Texas steer worth today?'

" 'Around twenty dollars,' I tell him.

" 'If there's a war, that price will shoot to a hundred. You should buy all the livestock you can get your hands on right now.'

" 'I know something better,' I say. 'A Mexican steer sells for ten dollars. And if you can steal one, it's free.' "

Outlaw has love, adventure, history and one of the most colorful heroes ever to fill the pages of any novel. So crunch down in your favorite chair and let Garland take you for a raucous ride. (Fine, $19.95)

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