Review: South California Purples a gritty, 1970’s-era Western crime thriller

by G. Robert Frazier

Ty Dawson just can’t catch a break. After serving as a military police officer, Dawson wants nothing more than to live out his life in peace and quiet. But in the turbulent 1970s—as America’s last soldiers return home from Vietnam amid protests and political upheaval—even the remote region of Meriwether County in southern Oregon does not go untouched. Dawson, in turn, soon finds himself back on the front lines as the sheriff conscripts him into service as a deputy.

South California PurplesPart Western, part crime thriller, South California Purples ($28, The Permanent Press) is the first in what author Baron R. Birtcher hopes to be a trilogy, if not a full series, of books.

Dawson may not like his newfound responsibilities, but like any hardened, red-blooded American hero, when service calls he is ready to answer. In this instance, the call comes in the form of  political activist Teresa Pineu who is striving to save a herd of wild mustangs from a government sale by the Bureau of Land Management. Throw in the rowdy motorcycle gang known as the Charlatans—just passing through on their way to a “Woodstock-sized hippie fest”—and even Dawson can’t ignore all the ingredients for a violent confrontation are in place.

Birtcher writes in lean, authoritative prose with hard-hitting dialogue that has a noirish feel. The action unfolds quickly and, at times, in violent bursts. Dawson’s showdown with the thugs is reminiscent of  Buford Pusser’s confrontations in The Walking Tall movies.

Baron Birtcher

Baron R. Birtcher

Known for his Mike Travis series of crime fiction, Birtcher has previously been nominated for a number of literary awards, including the Nero Award for Hard Latitudes, the Claymore and Silver Falchion Awards for Rain Dogs, and the Left Coast Crime “Lefty” Award for Angels Path.

The accolades are bound to keep coming with South California Purples.



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