Mike Kearby






Trail's End Books, Oct 2006
Reviewed by Joy Calderwood

Western: Civil War and after. It is listed as Young Adult reading, but it is not for young people.

Young farm slave George Washington Anderson changes his name to Free Anderson when he escapes and joins the Union army. That doesn't mean he is problem-free, of course. A sergeant of the 62nd US Colored Infantry Regiment is sworn to an army in which other regiments refuse to fight shoulder to shoulder with his people.

The Colored Infantry is also handy when a fall-guy is needed. In such a case Free takes action to protect the 62nd, and Corporal Jubal Thompson is going to get revenge against Free for it, no matter what it takes.

Jubal catches up with Free in Texas, where he is riding with a cattle outfit. Jubal has the edge, because he has wangled himself a position as sheriff. Jubal leads a carefree life running a gang of outlaws, pretending to chase himself and his men, and stuffing his gold pouch preparing to lead a life of leisure in Mexico. Now he can kill two birds with one stone: use Free as his fall-guy again, and get his revenge. 

You, the adult reader, may well enjoy Free's partnership with white Lieutenant Parks Scott, a trainer and dealer of western mustangs. You may well enjoy the horse races, the prairie travel, and the brushes with Native American culture. You may enjoy the intrigue in which Free and Parks try to get Jubal and Jubal tries to get everybody. 

Any adult western reader has probably read similar stories but not young readers. The first part of THE ROAD TO A HANGING is chock full of lies, betrayal, and back-stabbing. It even seems to take them as a standard part of Army life. This is no sort of example for young people. Young people should be taught how to handle their present lives successfully, including honestly, before being dipped into a rotten past. 

So when you finish THE ROAD TO A HANGING, you the adult reader may want to go on and read the second of the trilogy, RIDE THE DESPERATE TRAIL. It's not in a class with Zane Grey or Louis L'Amour, but author Mike Kearby's intentions are good. He got swept up in protesting past injustice, a valid thing to protest, and his not-very-deep writing got his book classified as Young Adult.

Apr 2007


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