Book Review: The Grey Man: Vignettes

Curtis, J. L. The Grey Man: Vignettes. (2014) Kindle Edition

I started reading this first book in the Grey Man trilogy (three books thus far) as I waited for a medical appointment. It sucked me in hard enough that the PA was startled by my pulse rate and blood pressure. And that I almost didn’t mind waiting 90 minutes to see the doc. What I did mind was staying so caught up in the story that I only got 2000 words written that day on my own novel! [shakes clenched paw in Mr. Curtis’s direction] Yes, it is that good.

As the title suggests, this novel has five main stories, three of which are tightly linked, two a little less so. They center on the life of your basic Mark 2 Good Old Boy, an older gentleman who runs a few cattle out in the TransPecos and worries about his granddaughter and helps out the local county sheriff. Which is partly why, as I started reading, I kept nodding and saying, “Yep, yep, I know this gent. Yup, un huh.”

But, keep in mind one of the great Rules of Life: Old Men Don’t Bluff.

John Cronin had an . . . interesting . . . life before he retired back to the family ranch. But in his kind of business, one never really retires. And in the Trans Pecos, when trouble comes it comes hard, especially in the long empty miles of I-20. Add in a pair of visiting Marines (one of whom is very interested in Miss Jessie Cronin) and life can be interesting once more.

If you like firearms, or want to learn about top-level competition shooting, you’ll enjoy this book. If you like tightly packed stories with realistic characters and all-too-realistic problems, this book is for you. If you like military or law enforcement adventures this is for you. If salty language turns you off, this is not your book. The gents try to watch their words around the ladies, but there are a lot of law enforcement and military here, and they call spades spades. Which may be why so much of the book rang true.

I know these guys, either personally or through mutual acquaintances. Does a lot happen? Yes. Does it seem a tad far-fetched at times? Maybe, but certain parts of the world are amazingly small places, and I can very much see someone with John Cronin’s level of experience getting invited to consult and teach certain things, and matters getting out of hand. Like a delivery pilot I knew who was supposed to be gone for two days and got back a month and a bit later. (His wife had serious doubts until she saw the expense report and receipts.)

There are some flaws in formatting and a few typos, but not enough to distract from the story, and most of those may be the fault of my e-reader rather than the file.

I highly recommend this book for folks interested in a tightly written book with fascinating and true-to-life characters dealing with a world a lot of us would like to pretend doesn’t really exist, or isn’t as bad as the author depicts.

Notice: This book was purchased with my own funds and I received no remuneration or benefits from the author.

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