Robert Lautner’s slender novel about an orphaned boy, lowlife killers, a rugged antihero and the Colt revolver that would transform the American West is drawing inevitable comparisons to Charles Portis’ True Grit.
While Road to Reckoning does tell a similar story, what the two books most have in common is elegant writing and an air of historical authenticity.
Lautner’s narrator is a 12-year-old who watches in horror as his gun salesman father is shot and robbed by four outlaws in 1830s frontier Pennsylvania. While making his way back home to New York, the boy finds an unlikely champion in the form of a Rooster Cogburn-esque Indiana ranger.
Henry Stands is an ornery old coot with a touch of whimsy (he sketches birds), lots of stoic pragmatism (he won’t name his horse, on the off chance that one day he’ll have to eat it) and so much reckless courage that he faces down a roomful of killers armed only with a wooden replica of a gun.
Somehow, the story feels familiar while consistently sidestepping all of the tired B-movie Western clichés — and the unforgettable characters give the book an unexpected staying power.
— David Martindale, Special to the Star-Telegram