Maybe it’s just my exposure to the genre, but whenever I
think “western,” I automatically assume a gunfighter or two will show up along
with some heathen Native Americans and, of course, some campfire homosex. But I
love having my expectations confounded so the small, yet complex, story in Jon
Wilson’s A Hundred Little Lies truly engaged me.
Jack Tulle, general store owner and respected city council
member of Bodey, Colorado has a wonderful relationship with his eight year old
daughter, Abigail, and friends all over town. But when a poker tournament comes
to Bodey, with it comes Tom Jude—Jack’s ex-lover—to threaten Tulle’s way of
Most impressive about this book is its portrayal of relationships.
Rich with detail and expression, Jack’s relationship with Abigail—a willful
girl savvy beyond her years—is beautifully done. Her grunts, squeals, evil-eye
squints and moods are immediately understood but never belabored, and their
give-and-take dialogue is anything but stickily sentimental. It has an edge as
well as an underlying respect on both their parts.
Jack’s relationship with Tom Jude, however, has a different
cast. It’s all smoke, veils and onion layers where what’s said isn’t
necessarily what’s meant. If not for Abigail’s mother, Fiona, Jack and Tom
would never have parted company. That doesn’t mean Tom wants to start up a new
life with Jack—or does he? A dalliance with a past lover or the beginning of a
new chapter? Tom’s intent isn’t clear until the final chapter. And even then, a
sequel is possible.
However interesting, the plot takes a backseat to the finely
drawn characters. Jack Tulle is complicated and three-dimensional. A man of
some education with a rough and tumble past behind him, as is his former career
as a circus performer, he now lives and works in a small town, satisfied to
raise his daughter. Full of common sense, homespun wisdom and a (mostly)
even-temperment, Jack is the perfect prairie papa.
But even Wilson’s minor characters have complexities—notably
Tom Jude, who may or may not be a rouge, shifty bank president Emmerson Knowles
and town marshall Ethan Evans, Tulle’s best friend. And Wilson’s characters are
as well-drawn as his portrait of small town Colorado life during that time
period. The sense of place and time here is dead on. You can almost smell the
dusty cowshit—and that’s not a bad thing.
Jon Wilson’s A Hundred Little Lies is a multi-faceted
gem of a read, with plenty of depth as well as sparkle.
Reviewed by Jerry Wheeler