Once a year, Max McCoy writes a novel in which he takes an iconic figure and peels back the layers of myth and legend to reveal a decidedly more interesting human being underneath.
"I, Quantrill," released this past week by Signet, is his 17th and, perhaps, his best book yet.
Over the past two decades, McCoy has had Jesse James tell his story through Mark Twain; he has sent an anxious Wild Bill Hickok to his first gunfight; and he has launched Indiana Jones' quest for the crystal skull.
McCoy is the author of historical Westerns, thrillers and four original Indiana Jones adventures. Earlier this spring, the Western Writers of America awarded "Hellfire Canyon," the Spur Award for best paperback original novel... McCoy has a way of clarifying complex subjects without oversimplifying them. His novels are thick with plot, alive with strong characterization, and rich with historic detail.
He goes on to quote Johnny D. Boggs:
"Max McCoy has a love for language," said South Carolina novelist Johnny D. Boggs, author of "The Hart Brand" and the Spur Award-winning "Doubtful Canon." "There's a rhythm to his sentences, great word choices, a wonderful cadence, superb imagery. His stories often flow like the lyrics to a good song. I'll often find myself reading his sentences two or three times because I admire them, and I'm trying to figure out how he does it."
Who can argue with that?
McCoy's decision to use a reviled (or revered) historic figure as a first-person narrator immediately engorges "I, Quantrill" with tension by putting the reader inside Quantrill's head and building a level of intimacy between reader and narrator that is both exciting and disturbing.
"Max McCoy is one of the top writers at work today in the Western field," Boggs said. "Max does sound historical research, and he puts his own twist in his novels. He has this knack for bringing historical figures to vibrant life, whether it's Wild Bill Hickok or Jesse James. He shows them for what they were: humane yet savage."
You can read the review in its entirety here.