> Local connection: King City resident Robert Walton, a community columnist for The Salinas Californian, contributed two short stories for this anthology of Western short fiction. Walton’s fiction has been published by the Sierra Club’s Ascent and his poetry has appeared in High magazine, Loose Scree and in The Climbing Art.
> Content: Both of Walton’s short stories in this collection of Western fiction feature legendary bandit Joaquin Murrieta. In the first tale, “Indio,” Murrieta takes it upon himself to deal with a Ute renegade named Indio who has been on a rampage.
When Murrieta discovers a family whom Indio has butchered, the bandit buries the victims and then mutters to himself, “Indio, it is time we met.”
What follows is the account of how the clever but aged outlaw lures Indio into an ambush. Unfortunately, the renegade is as wily as Murrieta and both men pay a price when the lead begins to fly.
Walton shuns a pat ending and leaves a little room for doubt at the conclusion of the story. One man is seriously wounded and the other — well, we aren’t quite sure what will ultimately happen to him. As Murrieta says, “The desert will finish Indio. Or it won’t. We’ve done what we could.”
In the second story, “Navidad,” Walton portrays his aging protagonist in a totally different light. Murrieta meets a young couple and their baby on the trail one evening and discovers the child is deathly ill.
Realizing they need assistance, he takes them to the cabin of a man he just met and the two men are able to lend the couple a hand with bringing down the infant’s fever.
The total opposite of “Indio,” this story shows a completely different side to Murrieta and it underscores his ability to quickly and accurately judge individuals he encounters on his journeys.
In this case, it is the accidental meeting with the man who owns the isolated cabin who is the individual Murrieta “connects” with. The need to assist the young couple just shows how well the two men understand one another.
> Audience: Anyone who enjoys Western fiction will enjoy the selections in this anthology. Walton’s work is excellent and it’s no wonder Walton, a very gifted writer, has won a few awards for his stories.
> Robert Walch of Monterey writes about Central Coast Authors for the Arts & Books page Saturday in The Salinas Californian. Contact him in care of Central Coast Authors, The Salinas Californian, 123 W. Alisal St., Salinas 93901; fax to 754-4293; or e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.