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Under A Texas Sky
by Dorothy Garlock
(Grand Central, $15, G) ISBN 978-04465-4023-0
***
When you read a book and have a list of pros and cons, you know this was not a keeper. In evaluating the lists, they seem to even out. That is, again, not a good sign.

On the plus side is the setting and the location. Under a Texas Sky is set in prohibition Texas in the early 1930s. It is a unique locale and time frame. Unfortunately, there is little about prohibition or the depression. There isn’t anything that uses this distinctive locale in the plot.

The real location is the set of a movie – one of the first movies to actually film on location. The producer is Samuel Gillen, a silent movie star trying to make a name for himself in a different way. Along the way, he hires a young girl he found in a lowly theatre in St. Louis. Anna Finnegan has dreams of stardom. But while her eyes are filled with hope, her mind knows that she is lucky. Anna is an orphan who survived by begging and acting in a variety play houses. She is beautiful and it is that beauty that convinces Samuel that the camera will love her.

Redstone Texas is the destination – the townspeople are thrilled at the money brought into their sleepy little town. But some, like the local blacksmith, Dalton Barnes, also resent their condescending attitude, From their first meeting Dalton and Anna feel a spark and are, in actuality, kindred spirits. But there are unknown forces that cause accidents that threaten the completion of the movie and no one knows who is behind the sabotage. Dalton’s father is a gambler in deep with the local bad guy and to top it off, the bad guys’ goons are out to teach a lesson by hurting Dalton.

Another plus is Dalton and his mute friend Walker. They are the highlight of the story. Their friendship and camaraderie steals the show. Dalton is a good guy. His character shines throughout the story.

On the down side is Anna herself. One minute she is bright eyed and apparently naïve and the next she is tough and ready to fight for what she wants. She acts shy and allows one of the other female leads to intimidate her yet she stands up to Dalton, a big strapping man who could definitely hurt her. Her inconsistency was not an attractive feature.

The pacing of the story was the low point. There were times when the action moved the story and engaged the reader. At other times, there was a lot of nothing going on and it seemed as if the story would drag on. At times, I put the book down in the middle of a scene. The reason for the accidents was easy to figure out and while Garlock tried to paint several characters as the possible villain, it was obvious who the culprit was all along.

This is not Dorothy Garlock at her best. There are a lot of positives but they are counteracted by many negatives. Overall, this is acceptable story but nothing more.

--Shirley Lyons


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