In this magical and epic novel, the celebrated author of Urban Cowboy delivers a Texas-size love story that transplants the legend of Arthur, Guinevere, Lancelot, and Merlin alive and well to the Old West -- to stunning effect. Code of the West begins when Jimmy Goodnight, a young, earnest cowhand, recovering from having been brutally abducted by Comanches who slaughtered his family, sets his life on a new and surprising course by visiting a county fair. There he agrees to try to pull out an ax that has been deeply imbedded in an anvil and that has defied the efforts of the strongest men in Texas.
Jimmy's astonishing and triumphant achievement at the fair changes his life. With the prize money he follows his dream, recruits cowboys, puts together a herd of cattle, and drives them across the plains to a deep canyon, where he intends to make his own private kingdom. Goodnight's luck and courage bring him an early and gratifying success. Above all, they bring him the comradeship of his men, and the friendship of a lifetime, when he meets Jack Loving, who is everything Jimmy Goodnight isn't -- handsome, graceful, a naturally gifted horseman, and a great dancer. Together, Goodnight and Loving make a formidable team, and their relationship is one of complete trust, the bedrock on which Goodnight's growing empire rests, on a seemingly solid foundation -- until a woman appears with whom both men fall in love.
All goes well until Goodnight makes a fearful, vengeful, and unforgiving enemy, takes on an Eastern big businessman as a partner -- and falls in love with his beautiful daughter Revelie, and fails to notice the growing mutual attraction bet-ween Revelie and Loving...
Compulsively readable, cleverly interweaving Western history (Loving and Goodnight are both based on real people in the historical West) and Arthurian legend, Code of the West is a powerful love story, a sweeping adventure, a great "Western" -- and just the kind of unexpected, unusual, and hugely successful work of fiction that has sealed Aaron Latham's reputation.
In a captivating barnburner of romance, adventure and gruesome frontier justice, Latham takes the mythical legend of King Arthur and Camelot and dresses it in buckskin, sweat and cow manure to create a sweeping saga of three decades of Texas cowboy history. From the 1860s to the 1880s, Jimmy Goodnight runs the Home Ranch, a cattle empire hidden in a canyon paradise. One-eyed Jimmy is gifted; he's a natural leader of men and he's able to talk with animals. Ever since he pulled an ax out of an anvil at a county fair, the ax has been his weapon of choice, and Jimmy is mighty handy with it as he smashes thumbs and skulls to bring law and order to his empire. When Jimmy and his knightly cowboys rescue a young woman from a gang of outlaws, he is smitten by her beauty and charm. Revelie Sanborn marries the ax-wielding cattle baron, and they begin a short-lived life of bliss. Jimmy's best friend, Jack Loving (read Lancelot), takes advantage of incipient marital discord, and his betrayal begins a spiral of lust and murder that no one can stop. Throw in a bloodthirsty gang of foul-smelling outlaws; a violent cowboy rebellion; a bitter, long-lost son; and dark secrets from Jimmy's past; and this yarn picks up speed and intensity like a runaway herd of cattle. In melding ancient legends with our cowboy mythos (and a few real-life historical details), the narrative is far more sophisticated than a typical good vs. evil western; indeed, almost everyone has a mean streak, a powerful passion and a finger on the trigger. Latham, a versatile writer whose novels and screenplays (Urban Cowboy; Perfect) have earned him critical acclaim and an Oscar, carries off this rollicking tale with class and style. Agent, Sterling Lord. (Apr.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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Simon & Schuster
May 07, 2002
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Excerpt from Code of the West by Aaron Latham
Jimmy was seventeen years old and nervous before the dance. He was tall, skinny, and awkward. Looking out at the world through a single knothole, he saw an ugly sight in the mirror: his eye patch. He asked himself: If I was some girl, would I wanna dance with a patch like that there? His scowling reflection shook its head. But then he saw himself smile as he remembered how hard his cousin Rhoda had worked giving him dancing lessons. She had only come up to his waist. He had felt like a big old clumsy buffalo dancing with a graceful deer. After all that effort trying to learn to polka, he wondered if he would actually work up the nerve to ask a girl to polka with him. Maybe he should just ask Rhoda. But it might embarrass her, and who wants to be embarrassed? Besides, she might turn him down. He told his mind: Just shut up!
When everybody was ready, all dressed up in their Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes even though it wasn't Sunday, the whole family climbed aboard a wagon dragged along by two plodding plow horses. Aunt Orlena was dressed in a long grey dress and grey bonnet. Uncle Isaac wore his baggy black suit, which was beginning to turn brown, and a black string tie. Cousin Jeff had on a black suit, too, newer than his father's, but even baggier, bought with the expectation that he would grow into it someday. Little Rhoda and littler Naomi looked pretty in blue flour-sack dresses and pigtails. Jimmy, who didn't have a suit, was ashamed of his butternut homespun pants and shirt, but he was proud of his new bandanna, which was fire red.
Jimmy wished the team would pull faster and stir up a little breeze. It was hot on this July night in the middle of Texas. Everybody said this summer was shaping up to be the hottest and driest in memory. Even at this slow pace, the horses were lathered. They had worked hard all day in the field and must be tired. Now that he thought about it, Jimmy figured they had earned the right to plod slowly.
The wagon followed the road that led to the dreaded Weatherford schoolhouse, but Jimmy didn't mind because school was out for the summer. The closer they got, the more crowded the road grew, the more the little girls giggled, and the more nervous Jimmy became. When the wagon reached the school, the playground, which tonight would double as the dance floor, was already busy and noisy. Children were shouting and laughing, and the fiddles were tuning up. The sun was just setting, making even butternut look almost golden.