HARD COUNTRY - Michael McGarrity
Prequel to the Kevin Kerney Series

Dutton (Hardcover)
ISBN: 978-0-525-95246-6
May 2012
Adult Fiction / Western

Texas, Panama, Europe - 1875 to 1918

Thirty-two year old John Kerney came from Ireland, fought in the Civil War for the North, and then drifted west into Texas. Along the way he married a nice Irish girl, Mary Alice. The West Texas Plains are dry and desolate, and it is there, not far outside his sod house, that John loses all that is dear to him. His wife dies in childbirth and he's left holding a helpless infant son, soon to be named Patrick. The same day he finds his brother and nephews dead. He leaves Patrick with his sister-in-law, Ida, and sets out to find his brother's killers, and a job. He'll take whichever comes his way first.

John goes south , ending up near the Tularosa River in New Mexico territory where he searches for a place to build a ranch. He works cattle, hiring on with any outfit that will take him, and sends money to Ida, who has now married and moved into a mining community with John's son, Patrick, and her new husband. The land near the Tularosa is parched and scorched by the relentless sun, but John finds a place in the hills with plenty of water for the cattle he plans to raise. Along the way, he meets a man named Cal Doran, who subsequently becomes a silent partner in John's ranch, the Double K. As soon as he can make the ranch pay, John plans to send for Patrick. But that all changes when he receives a letter from Ida's husband saying they can't keep the boy any longer.

HARD COUNTRY is an epic novel. A diversion for author Michael McGarrity, who writes a popular crime series starring protagonist Kevin Kerney, HARD COUNTRY tells the story of Kevin's ancestors and the beginnings of their home in Tularosa, New Mexico.

While I have not read the Kevin Kerney series, I heartily recommend HARD COUNTRY, which stands totally alone on many merits. Even though the pages are many (624 to be exact), the reading is fast and the story hard to put down. Spanning the years from 1875 following the Civil War and encompassing both the Spanish American War and World War I, this novel is filled with history and great story-telling. As we follow John Kerney and the building of his ranch, several other characters grace the pages, among them John's son, Patrick, and his wife, Emma, and their son C.J. (I am hoping that there are more novels to come, spanning the intervening years from 1918 and forward.)

HARD COUNTRY is full of action: Indian uprisings, cattle rustling, and even the Lincoln County Wars, Billy the Kid and Pat Garrity! The settings are as much a character as the actual people who live within. This is a tale you will not soon forget.

Diana Risso