The cowboy is the American knight, so it would follow that tales of knighthood can provide the inspiration for stories about cowboys and the basis for this grand and dazzlingly innovative epic of the old American West by the celebrated author and screenwriter of Urban Cowboy.
Inspired by Sir Percival's great quest for the Holy Grail, Aaron Latham has crafted a classic adventure story set among the tumbleweeds of the American West at the twilight of the nineteenth century. It is first and foremost the coming-of-age story of an innocent -- a fledgling cowboy, that singularly American update on the archetypal knight of old. Featuring characters from Latham's acclaimed Code of the West, The Cowboy with the Tiffany Gun is his most exhilarating performance yet.
Our young hero is Percy -- but he prefers his nickname, Pyg, short for Percy York Goodnight. When he learns that the man called Loving has been shot and is near death, Percy and his mother, Revelie, rush away to be by Loving's side in Texas. Long ago, Revelie shared with Loving a bond of great passion.
Mother and son arrive to find Loving gravely ill -- and to discover that an heirloom ax has disappeared from the ranch. According to Western lore, this was the very ax that Jimmy Goodnight, Percy's presumed father, once pulled out of an anvil. The ax was stolen from the cemetery, where it had been imbedded in Goodnight's tombstone. The stone is gone, too.
Latham's historically authentic narrative takes off on a rousing gallop here as Pyg vows to find the ax and must face trials and calamities of a Biblical scale -- flood, fire, gunfights, and the devastating pestilence that changed the course of frontier history. Of Code of the West, James M. McPherson wrote that "Latham has pulled off the seemingly impossible."
With The Cowboy with the Tiffany Gun, he has done it again.
Though it features characters from 2001's Code of the West, a rollicking Arthurian tale set in 1880s Texas, Latham's latest novel has little of its predecessor's excitement, suspense or humor. Instead, a posse of colorful characters wander around within a lackluster, loosely woven plot. Revelie Goodnight (read Guinevere), the widow of Texas cattle baron Jimmy Goodnight (King Arthur), is raising her son, Percy, aka Pyg, to be a proper gentleman in Boston. When Revelie learns her lover, Jack Loving (Lancelot), has been shot, she and Percy return to the sprawling Home Ranch (Camelot) in Texas. En route, a tough, sassy farm girl named Jesse attaches herself to the pair, to Revelie's disgust and 17-year-old Percy's licentious delight. Once back at Home Ranch, Revelie realizes she has secrets to hide one from the Texas law and two others from her son. While Revelie nurses Jack Loving, and Pyg and Jesse get busy in the barn, somebody steals Jimmy Goodnight's tombstone, in which the "ax that had made a Texas legend" (Excalibur) is imbedded. Pyg, determined to recover the tombstone to see if he can pull the ax from the stone, rides off with a posse of loyal cowboys and Jesse, after outlaws, scofflaws and other undesirables. Flood, fire, cattle fever, locusts, snake bites and gangs of killers are in the way, but Pyg and the cowboys are bold and audacious saddle pals determined to win their prize. Despite a lot of action and banter, and a very funny scene in a Texas brothel, this shoot 'em up misses its mark.