Larry Sweazy intended his period thriller, A Thousand Falling Crows to be a standalone. However, the compelling lead character, Sonny Burton, a former Texas Ranger who lost his arm during a shootout and car chase with Bonnie and Clyde, asked for further examination. Luckily, the author was inspired to bring Sonny back in The Lost Are The Last To Die, going both deeper into the man and the world he inhabits.
The Rangers pull Sonny out of retirement to assist his son, Jesse, with a prison break. Billy Bunson, charming sociopath, has busted out, taking the warden’s pregnant wife as a hostage. Sonny’s history with Billy makes him the most likely to understand his moves. Sonny knows him well enough to realize there is more going on than what it seems.
Sweazy could have simply given a thrill-a-minute pursuit novel and it would have been great. However, he decided to go deeper by weaving in the history of Sonny and Billy from the day the lawman caught him stealing. We learn how the two men react to violence and how they dealt with it, particularly with Sonny and his experience in The Great War. When these two face off in the climax it means so much more.
Not only does the author look deeper into his characters, but in the place and time as well. His 1930s Texas is a world of its own. It has the Pekinpah feel of a place caught in transition where many are still stuck in the old ways. The Wild West is still hanging on with some with back trails and unbeaten paths for outlaws who are now assisted by fast cars and guns more powerful than a six shooter. Not only do Sonny and Jesse hold a father and son’s tension, but one of two different generations of rangers as that institution is in change as well. Of course, the real gap is between Sonny and his adversary. Sonny looks for a way to deal with this new world and how to maneuver through it and the wounds it gave him. Billy is both its product and adversary.
The Lost Are The Last To Die knows its characters well and mines them for all they are worth. It brings us into a tangible world of people dealing with life and death struggles, trying to find ways to rise above them without being broken one way or another. Hopefully Larry Sweazy has some other ideas for Sonny Burton now.
The Lost Are The Last To Die by Larry Sweazy is available for purchase in-store and online at BookPeople now.