I specialize in reviewing Print-On-Demand (POD) published books for my website and Midwest Book Review. Please query for a review by email to hgunther234@hotmail.com.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

THE LAST JAGUAR by Bruce Bradley

The Last Jaguar
Bruce Bradley
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Rd - 515, Parker, CO 80134
Genre: Fiction/Historical Western
ISBN: 1598001906, $13.95, 224 pp, 2006

This story takes place in the Sierra mining town of Grass Valley in 1858. Widowed rancher Tom Allison is the pivotal protagonist involved in a web of suspense and danger when he discovers that a huge jaguar has pulled down one of his 1,000-pound longhorn steers and dragged it a quarter mile. While tracking the cat with his neighbor John Bowden, a retired military captain, he also discovers the brutal murder of the Anderson family by a giant, renegade Indian named Dark Rose.

There are many facets and sub-stories within this story and points of view: Tom Allison’s children, Tyler age 10 (becoming a man) and Mattie age 12 (becoming a young woman); Ollie Barton, a little Irish man, and his conflict with Zeller; the Richard Palin family’s tragedy (wife, Anne, sons, Lyle and Sean); Lorelei Crane’s relationship with the jaguar and Sean; Kate Foster’s boardinghouse and relationship with John Bowden; the jaguar from his point of view; and Dark Rose, from his.

I am going to quote an excerpt from page 200 to give you an idea of the quality and style of the Bruce Bradley’s writing:

For days now, Death had been watching him. Dark Rose had felt its presence. Twice he had glimpsed Death standing just behind his left shoulder.

Dark Rose did not fear Death. His was a warrior’s vision of the world. He looked at his Death as a friend, ever there to remind him that each moment, each breath might be his last. His awareness of Death guided him and made each action he took one of clear intent.

This wasn’t the first time that Death had made his presence known to Dark Rose, but the fact that Death had chosen this particular time to follow him, coupled with the visions Dark Rose had begun having while asleep led the Indian to believe his time might actually be near.

Two white men had begun to invade his sleep–one light-eyed, the other dark. Both men wore grim, determined faces. Death hovered around the two, just as it followed Dark Rose. Unlike him, however, they were unaware of its presence. Few white men ever seemed to sense the presence of Death even when it was standing next to them. Few white men had eyes that saw what was obvious.

This is a true western novel and has a number of dark characters, all with their own agendas. It is a work of fiction; however, there are a number of parts which are historically accurate: The deaths of Rose, Glass and Menard in 1833, the descriptions of the towns of Grass Valley and Nevada City, CA, the history of the Empire Mine, the fact that jaguars did live in California at the time of the story.

The author begins with the problem of a rogue jaguar threatening Tom’s livestock and brings us full circle to close when the jaguar returns. This is a good story, well-written, and will definitely appeal to western genre lovers. Bruce Bradley is a strong, straight forward writer–a man’s writer–who surprises us now and then with bits of wisdom and sensitivity.

Bruce Bradley grew up living in California and Alaska. He has worked at many jobs: Cook, Sheet Metal Worker, Taxi Driver, Newspaper Reporter, Photographer, Private Investigator, Bartender and Winemaker. He published his first book, Hugh Glass, in 1999.

I thoroughly enjoyed your story, Bruce, and look forward to your next book.

Reviewed by Kaye Trout - April 2, 2006 - Copyright


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