When a Man’s a Man opens in sermonizing style.
Early in the 1900s, a stranger walks onto the Cross-Triangle Ranch near Prescott, Arizona, seeking work. The greenhorn, who gives “Honorable Patches” as a name, has no work experience, but he’s strong and willing to try anything.
Phil Acton, the ranch’s second in command, undertakes Patches’ training.
It doesn’t take Patches long to learn to ride, rope, shoot, and become a part of the ranch family.
In return, Patches puts in a plug for Phil with Kitty Reid, who misses in Phil the culture she recalls from her three years of school in Cleveland.
Wright puts in the standard elements of Westerns—rustlers, wranglers, wild horses—and a few Eastern elements: a desiccated professor of aesthetics, a cowpoke with a reading habit, and an outlaw below average in the IQ department.
Wright achieves a plausible, unexpected ending that makes up for much of the hackneyed in the plot.
And along the way he tucks in enough information about ranch operations to allow readers who dislike westerns or fiction to feel their time’s not been wasted.
When A Man’s a Man by Harold Bell Wright
Grosset and Dunlap, 1916. 1916 bestseller #2. Project Gutenberg ebook #14367.
My Grade: B-.
© 2016 Linda Gorton Aragoni