There’s nothing like good historical fiction set in the “Old West.” Many of those stories were written by one of that genre’s legends, Louis L’Amour. That was back in the hey-day of the Western.
In Mr. L’Amour’s one hundred plus novels he featured lots of different characters plus the characters in at least three different families. One of those families was the Sacketts. A reader, like my husband, who has read all of them several times, will come to know many members in this multi-generational family. I’ve also read some of these Westerns and I like the Sacketts. I’d never read the story of the first Sackett to come to the new world, so I decided to check him out.
Sacker’s Land is the story of Barnabas Sackett. As I first met him, he was a young man living in the Fens, a marshy area in eastern England in the late seventeenth/early eighteenth century. Barnabas does own a few tillable acres on his marshy land but, he’s not a farmer. Instead Barnabas works at a quarry miles from home. He is unusual among his neighbors in that he has traveled more than a few miles from home.
Barnabas owes a lot to his father. His father had been a successful soldier who did valient deeds for some important people. He taught Barnabas some significant lessons, not all about soldiering, but about his character. Barnabas remembers his father’s words and they guide him throughout his life.
Barnabas‘ father had saved the life of an important earl. In return, the earl wished to leave his father all of his property which would then pass to Barnabas. This situation caused Barnabas to have an enemy in Rupert Genester, a distant nephew of the earl. In order to have a clear path, Rupert knew he must make sure that Barnabas died young.
With that threat hanging over his head you’d think that Barnabas would hide out somewhere or leave the country. Well, Barnabas did want to leave the country, but not to escape Rupert. After finding some ancient gold coins, Barnabas sold them and purchased “trade goods” that he could take to the New World and exchange for goods desired in England. But, as Barnabas was on his way to meet his two traveling companions on the ship, he was highjacked.
Barnabas woke up in the hold of a different ship. Yes, he was at sea. Rupert had hired a villainous ship owner to kidnap Barnabas and kill him at sea. But, Barbabas understood human nature. When the bad guys opened the lid of that hold, Barnabas showed joy at being on a ship. He told them he always wanted to learn to be a sailor. He began working hard at all the jobs on-board ship and the others were happy to have the extra help. Barnabas managed to stay alive until he got to the New World.
The next part of the story was just a little too coincidental to be completely believable. The ship Barnabas was on just happened to be in the same place in the New World as the ship his friends were on. Barnabas did manage to escape and to do some trading with the Indians, one of whom happened to speak English.
I won’t spoil the rest of the story by telling you all of the details. I’ll just say that Barnabas does manage to get back home to England with his haul of furs and potash. His adventures in the New World wet his appetite to go back again, this time with a wife and more goods to trade.
Parts of the story were a bit too much. I could have done with a lot less sword-fighting and other acts of violence. I would have preferred more time spent in America. I wanted to see the New World from the imaginary eyes of Barnabas and how he decided to make the New World his home. My huband tells me there is another book in the Sackett Series that will fill that need for me. It’s called To The Far Blue Mountains. Overall, Sackett’s Land was enjoyable. I’m ready to go find and read To The Far Blue Mountains.