After an attempted horse theft goes tragically wrong, sixteen-year-old Caleb Bentley is on the run with his mean-spirited older brother across the American Southwest at the turn of the twentieth century. Caleb’s moral compass and inner courage will be tested as they travel the harsh terrain and encounter those who have carved out a life there, for good or ill.
Wealthy and bookish Randall Dawson, out of place in this rugged and violent country, is begrudgingly chasing after the Bentley brothers. With little sense of how to survive, much less how to take his revenge, Randall meets Charlotte, a woman experienced in the deadly ways of life in the West. Together they navigate the murky values of vigilante justice.
Powerful and atmospheric, lyrical and fast-paced, All Things Left Wild is a coming-of-age for one man, a midlife odyssey for the other, and an illustration of the violence and corruption prevalent in our fast-expanding country. It artfully sketches the magnificence of the American West as mirrored in the human soul.
Wade's violent and transfixing debut follows teenage Caleb Bentley and his no-good older brother, Shelby, through the turn-of-the-20th-century southwest, where they are on the run after stealing horses and killing a young boy in the process. Caleb and Shelby are pursued by dandified rancher Randall Dawson, pushed by his wife into getting revenge for the death of their son, Henry. But Randall, a poet by inclination, is unsuited for such a mission of vengeance. Fortunately, he is helped by single-minded Charlotte Washington, a black woman who is good with a gun. They are joined by Henry's ranch hand friend Tadpole and an orphaned youth they find in an abandoned town. The Bentley brothers reluctantly join the Lobos, a band of outlaws led by a charismatic but volatile ex-Ranger named Grimes, from whom Caleb tries to rescue a Mexican girl Grimes plans to marry. And with Charlotte, Randall finds love and a courage he never knew he possessed as the two groups converge on one another for a blood-soaked climax. The author takes a classic western setup and refreshes it with sharp writing, strong characterizations, a vivid evocation of place, and a body count to rival The Wild Bunch. Fans of All the Pretty Horses will want to saddle up for this literary ride.
No need to say more.
All Things Left Wild
The author, James Wade, is evidently enamored of flowery prose. The opening of the first chapter, is supposed to be from the viewpoint of a teenager in the early American west, at his mother’s funeral. The observations, supposedly made by this teenager, are couched in language that might have been appropriate to an Oxford student in an English churchyard in that time frame.
Mr. Wade chooses elements of nature illuminate with his prose, but would have benefited from a little research into the elements he tries to depict. He obviously has no personal knowledge of them.
He places the season as in early autumn, “late in coming”. Some of the nature he erroneously depicts include: Yuccas blooming - by even early autumn, yucca blooms have long faded and seed pods have formed. Barn swallows hopping about in bushes - sparrows do this, swallows never do. Herons migrating in a flock overhead - herons flock together only on nesting grounds in the spring, not to migrate. Cranes do, herons do not.
The author should switch to writing fantasy or science fiction. He could then make up the world his story takes place in, and have no need to carry out research, which he obviously did not wish to do.
William L. Kotila
June 23, 2020