On the Bookshelf: The Death and Life of Strother Purcell by Ian Weir
If Shakespeare and Faulkner had a knife fight in a back alley, the blood they spilled would be the ink Ian Weir used to record The Death and Life of Strother Purcell. The tale of a legendary gunman and his outlaw brother is as mythic as it is down and dirty, crossing years, borders and near every moral and ethical boundary imaginable as the estranged brothers head for a reckoning that is sure to be as apocalyptic as it is inevitable. It’s fit for those who like the westerns of Cormac McCarthy and Annie Proulx in equal measures: as literary as it is lurid, as epic as it is eerie. Picture John Wayne riding into a Greek tragedy and you’ll have a notion of the peculiar brilliance that is The Death and Life of Strother Purcell.
In 1876, the fabled lawman Strother Purcell disappears into a winter storm in the mountains of British Columbia, while hunting down his outlawed half-brother. Sixteen years later, the wreck of Purcell resurfaces – derelict and homeless – in a San Francisco jail cell. And a failed journalist named Barrington Weaver conceives a grand redemptive plan. He will write Purcell’s true-life story. All it requires is a final act…
What unfolds is an archetypal saga of obsession, lost love, treachery, and revenge. A deadpan revisionist Western, refracted through a Southern Gothic revenge tragedy, The Death and Life of Strother Purcell is a novel about two cursed brothers, a pair of eldritch orphans, the vexed nature of truth, and the yearnings of that treacherous sonofabitch the human heart.