The Sons of Philo Gaines Cover

By Michael R. Ritt
reviewed by Charles Johnson
Western Genre
324 pages
Published by Cengage/Five Star
ISBN #: 9781432871031

What happens when you have three sons of three different personalities and careers, who join together in a common cause, all of them the offspring of a well-known lawman? The answer is in THE SONS OF PHILO GAINES.

This novel comes in four parts; each son’s lifestyle and demeanor get a part of the book: the sedate schoolteacher, the footloose gunfighter, and the cagey gambler. Each son carries a past with him – a lost love, a cursed trial, a name that denies family in some ways. The fourth part addresses the uniting of these three sons as they face a family foe, motivated by theme of revenge and comeuppance.

And as in any good novel, there must be the notorious villain – in this case, a rancher who has his eye on the local beauty – but even more so on the local financial dealings. His past, too, drives him as the reader learns what that history holds for him. He is surrounded, as would be expected, by the usual – and not so usual – gang of thugs who follow the villain’s bidding, regardless of the reason or moral correctness.

The love interest, too, is there, as the reader sees the school teacher’s love stir for one who is seemingly forbidden, another for a saloon girl, another for a passenger on a stage run . . . oh, and yes, others that seep up from the past of our three lads of the west.

The story centers around Mustang Flats, Texas, but we hear mention of so many other localities and sites – Denver, Las Cruces, stage coach routes, various mountain ranges that our heroes ride through – I always wish there were a map somewhere in the books like this for the reader to find some visual ground as the action occurs. There are extended overnight horse rides that find some decent descriptions of the southwest geography and night and in the heat of the day. In a kudo to the author Michael Ritt, characters vary, male and female alike, leading to some truly interesting personalities. No one-dimensional typical western folk here. There is humor, too, especially featuring a certain kind of contest between a loner and his mule – I wish there had been more humor like that throughout the book.

THE SONS OF PHILO GAINES is quite a good read. The novel would have benefitted from some tighter editing to polish some sections of the book, but nonetheless, this is a good first entry into the western genre for Mr. Ritt. I do indeed hear and see our three brothers appearing again in future adventures.