This is book three in “The Colton Brothers” saga, so not having read books one and two I have obviously been jumping into the middle of the narrative and who knows what small details I missed; three brothers, adventuring in the Wild West, lots of horses and gunplay and hostile Indians and all that.. This would be pretty much a conventional Western adventure, save for a couple of non-conventional elements. Instead of the post-Civil War West, this takes place right in the middle of it. Yes, not all of the important and/or interesting battles were happening east of the Mississippi during the Civil War; the South West – present-day Texas, New Mexico and Arizona had quite a lively a time as Virginia and Tennessee ever did.

Starting off in Mesilla, New Mexico Territory, the plot follows Colonel John Baylor’s abortive raid into the southwest, and his near-miss attempt to go all the way to California, scooping up gold, silver and territory for the glory of the Confederacy. Baylor makes an interestingly vicious villain; presumably his stated plan as Confederate Governor of the Arizona Territory for dealing with Apache depredations by poisoning adult Indians and selling the children into slavery to defray expenses is the set-piece for the next volume.

In this volume, the only thing that stands between Colonel Baylor’s plots for Confederate domination of the southwest is the Union Army of the far west – and the Colton brothers; Trace and James, and their younger brother, Andy. Trace is the sheriff of Mesilla, James is a violent drunk, traumatized by his experience as a captive of Cochise’s Apaches, and Andy… who joins the Union Army along with him, in an fruitless attempt to keep him out of trouble… Andy is the happy go lucky innocent, but not for very much longer.

“Arizona War” is neatly plotted, competently written and obviously carefully researched, with a good eye for the historical nuances available, once one wanders beyond the B-movie western conventions. If there is a weakness, it is in the rather thin characterizations of ongoing characters like the brothers and their friends. Perhaps it is a weakness of a series character, since their development takes place over several volumes, not just in this single segment of one extended adventure.

“Arizona War” is available from Barnes & Noble, and from the publisher, La Frontera Publishing.

Sgt. Mom is a free-lance writer and member of the Independent Authors Guild who lives in San Antonio and blogs at The Daily Brief. Her current book “To Truckee’s Trail” is available here. More about her books is at her website www.celiahayes.com.

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