Wednesday, August 20, 2014

"Left-Hand Kelly" by Elisabeth Grace Foley

This was the perfect book to read last week when I had a cold.  Quick, fun, and great to read in little sections when I needed to sit down and rest for five minutes.

The story revolves around a cowhand passing through the town of Clemson, Oklahoma, who stumbles on two young men involved in a scuffle that ends when Bob Reeves shoots Lew Kelly.  Reeves flees because the Kelly family are a real tough bunch, headed by a father who used to be a gunfighter.  Not people you want to tangle with.  The narrator takes the wounded boy to the Kelly ranch, helps them fix him up, and then leaves.  A few years later, he passes through Clemson again and gets inadvertently involved in Lew Kelly's affairs again.  Lew's right hand was crippled by the bullet Bob Reeves put in him, and is now derisively called Left-Hand by the people of Clemson.  The narrator steps in to help him once again, and finds himself drawn deeper and deeper in to Lew Kelly's problems.

At first, I was a little bit put off by the way that the narrator, Colvin, stuck his nose in other people's business, gossiped with the local barkeep, and conveniently had all sorts of people confiding things in him.  But then I realized that he kept making me think of Jimmy Stewart, and that if this was a movie and Stewart was in the role, I'd believe people would tell him their troubles and that he'd be just politely curious and nosy.  So then I was no longer annoyed and moved on with the story.  And that's the only criticism I have of this book:  it does hinge on a few conveniences, Colvin being in the right place and talking to the right people on several occasions.

All in all, though, this is a charming western, with nary a bad word or hint of objectionable content.  Should my kids get into westerns (with me as a mom, they have a good chance, right?), I'll gladly hand them this to read when they're old enough to understand it.

Particularly Good Bits:

The train didn't come rushing in as you'd expect something late to do, but steamed in ponderously, as if it had had quite an experience and was pretty proud of itself for getting there at all (p. 58).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  PG for some violence.


  1. I seem to have trouble getting into westerns. Maybe I should try a fun, quick one like this to get me going.

    1. Do you have the same trouble with western movies/shows, or just books? They aren't for everyone, it's true -- my dad and I love westerns, my mom tolerates them, and my brother is not really a fan. We figured out that a deal-breaker for my brother for a lot of movies is that he has to want to live in that world, and he has no desire to live in the Old West. Too much dirt.

      I also quite liked EGF's collection of short stories, The Ranch Next Door and Other Stories. In fact, I may have liked a couple of those stories better than this, so you might too. Never know!

    2. Now that you mention it, I don't watch a lot of western movies either! The difference is that once I start watching the movie, I become more interested. I haven't had that luck with the books. But it's been a while since I've tried, and I'm not as picky about my reading as I used to be--now would probably be a better time to try! Thanks for the suggestions!

    3. I have seen orders of magnitude more western movies and TV show eps than I have read western books. I've actually been working on expanding my western reading horizons because until the past year or so, I'd read maybe 10 adult westerns. Which is silly.

    4. Well, now you've inspired me as well as read more of them yourself, so you can rest easy. :)


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