Reactions from readers of the book
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Incident at 20-Mile
St. Martin's Press, NY, 1998
A godforsaken town. A young, eager-to-please stranger carrying a homemade shotgun and a staggering secret. And a mad man escaped from the Territorial Prison at Laramie, cutting a swath of sadistic violence with two killers at his side...Now, for the people of Twenty-Mile--the God-fearing and the godless, heroes, whores, lovers and a boy teetering on the edge of madness--a siege is about to begin amidst a harrowing mountain storm. And when the killing, the thunder, and the terror is over, some will live, some will be buried, and the myth of the American frontier will never be the same...
This is the work of an all-time master - darker, grittier, and more complex than the old dime novels and hundreds of movies that mythologised the West, but packed with all of the satisfying suspense and improbable coincidences traditional of the genre.
In his own words
Incident at Twenty-Mile, was an oblique look at the state of the American Dream at the end of the 20th Century disguised as a classic Western novel (and indeed several reviewers were kind enough to include it among the best three or four Western novels ever written.)
Some reader's reactions
from Palm Beach County, Florida , September 10, 1999 What a sleeper, I've been looking for anything by Trevanian for years....ever since the Summer of Katya and suddenly, unbeknownst to most of us, I suspect, this shows up in the bookstore...no fanfare on the net or in the papers..nothing!! Well most avid readers are missing a treat here, the best kept literary secret in town, a bizarro western. This is Hannibal Lecter at the Ponderosa Ranch. The story moves very quickly, yet not at the expense of thorough character development...and there are plenty of characters to keep track of...the tension and horror which arises in this poor town when Leider arrives is so thick you can cut it with a knife and the pages fly by as the carnage worsens. The climax occurs in somewhat of a contrived wicked storm (which I could have done without), after which the story ends abruptly, only to be salvaged to a small degree by Trevanian's postscript of the final travails of each of our main characters, supposedly rooted in some degree of reality..go figure. All in all a superior, rapid read, very satisfying and thought provoking days after you've finished.
from marvelous marin , October 19, 1998 HEEEEEEEEEEEEEE'S BAAAAAAAAAACK!!!!! THE ULTIMATE WESTERN! WOW! after an absence of 15 years, the reclusive trevanian once again graces his adoring following with the end-all western novel! this is written more in the style of 'summer of katya' rather than 'shibumi' ... masterful characters, exquisite writing and you-are-there scenes...it doesn't get much better than this...i just hope that this is a sign that trevanian will be writing more and more...nothing has ever even come close to the amazing 'shibumi'....even on amazon, the reviews keep pouring in constantly...there's a lot between the lines that sets in your subconscious and keeps cropping up days/weeks after you've finished 'twenty mile'...get it, enjoy each and every word, and know that you'll never even want to read another western after this one....and don't let the fact that it's a western put you off 'cuz there's a more to it than meets the eye, so to speak....come on, trevanian, give us more!!!
from Houston, TX , August 23, 1999
Well worth the wait! It's been much too long since there was a new Trevanian novel, but this one was worth waiting for! Trevanian puts you right there beside Matthew, Ruth Lillian, Lieder and the others. I just hope I don't have to wait another 15 years for his next work!
A reader from Southern California , August 21, 1999
I thought this book was great - moving, exciting, and sad .. I started out so disappointed. Expecting a great thriller, but I quickly accepted my loss, only to discover a much richer prize - a novel (I think) that shows the writer to understand human nature in all its forms. This is an exciting western tale that will have you hooked until the last word. And it's a very touching one. Except for a few unnecessary politically correct 1999 undertones, this is one that will please most readers.
A reader from New York State , July 19, 1999
A masterpiece! A masterpiece of the western genre. If only Sam Peckinpah were still around to film it!
A reader from Albany, New York , September 17, 1999 A Wonderful Writer Weighted Down by an Insipid Genre. Never read a book by Trevanian before, although I knew he had an ardent following and was fairly well regarded by critics. I spent a few days during vacation this summer reading Incident at Twenty Mile. Trevanian is certainly a wonderful writer. His writing and stylistic abilities are first rate and, based on this criterion alone, I would rate this book four or five stars. However, the story itself, while wonderful in its depiction of characters, eventually began to wane and lose my interest. I thought the ending a bit of a letdown and felt that, perhaps, Trevanian's attempt to write a Western genre book--while succedding remarkably well--suffered from the idiosyncratic failings of the genre formula. Wonderful writing, but not a great book.
A reader , September 10, 1999
The prologue and epilogue are as important as the story. As a long-time Trevanian fan I felt this book to be as satisfying as any of his other works but with a much simpler story line. Don't let the western theme of the story discourage you from reading the book--I have no interest in novels of the old west yet this turned out to be one of the most satisfying, impactful books I have ever read. The story is simple, direct and fleshed as only Trevanian's--in his own word, "sesquipedalian" style--can. Particular attention to the epilogue and prologue is important to reap the rewards of this novel. It will be unlike any book you have ever read. As one flies through the pages the story itself holds your interest keenly but actually climaxes in the extremely satisfying epilogue. As is mentioned in other reviews, I too experienced a chill of satisfaction upon reading the final paragraph. This is a book that will stay with you for months after the reading. HINT: especially satisfying for those having an interest in the colorful history of Seattle, WA (although the story takes place in Wyoming).
from Ft. Lauderdale, Fl , July 12, 1999 An exceptional book for any genre. I have been Travanian fan since "the Eiger Sanction." While he has not been a prolific writer with new titles delivered to his readers on an annual basis as many authors do, when he does deliver...HE DELIVERS! The book sets the story up efficiently and engagingly, and it never, ever falls into the "mid story lull" that many books do, when you get the feeling that the author is serving up filler. The ending seems to end with a bang and then...when you think he is wrapping up the book with a few cursory and perfuntory comments and references...then the real impact comes. The final relevation hits like the impact of punch that you don't see coming. Trevanian is Trevanian, and that very simply means that there is no writer today quite like him.
A reader from Boston , November 24, 1998
five stars because six isn't an option Trevanian has a special gift; he separates the men from the boys. You either get Trevanian or you don't. If you do, you find yourself sucked into his warped sense of reality. If you don't, his books seem flat. I've learned to distrust people who don't "get" Trevanian. I've been waiting fifteen years for the new novel, and it's been worth it. I always wondered if he could top Shibumi. He can't. But this is as close as you get. Just a Western? I don't think. This is the perfect "anti-Western," a complete dispelling of our American myths. And only an American could write it. More clues about Trevanian?
from Maryland (suburban D.C.) , October 31, 1998 Stock western with nothing innovative. Trevanian has taken the western genre and simply re-enacted the age old themes with nothing really interesting or unique. Young drifting youth with troubled past enters one horse town terrorized by insane ex-con and his band of two. Simpathetic virgin girl and multi-ethnic whores, tuberculous gambler (Doc Holliday?), peg-legged bartender and even homosexual stable owners fill out the cast. Who do you think wins the stand-off? But it's not over. You have to find out the future of all the players and it is supposedly true. Sure. Skip this one and re-read Lonesome Dove.
A reader from Cape Cod , October 26, 1998 I fell over in the bookstore! It never occured to me that I might be blessed with another book by Trevanian. Wow, was I happy when I spotted it in a bookstore. And it is new, not an older book. I am half-way through it, wish I could read slower. This author knows how to please a reader. No cookie cutter fill in the blanks here! My hat is off to Trevanian. He is on the short list of people I would really like to have a cup of coffee with.
A reader from Los Angeles, CA , October 25, 1998
Amazing characterization of the turn-of the century West. WOW! I read this book in two sittings. Travanian has written a masterpiece. The characters come alive and the battle of good and evil plays to perfection. The not so subtle allegorical social commentary remains tasteful throughout the book and causes one to pause and think. The plot moves at a wonderful pace, disabling the reader from putting the damn thing down.
from Texas , September 28, 1998 Westerns don't get better than this. Trevanian's skill as a novelist has never been better showcased than this fascinating story from the American West. INCIDENT AT TWENTY-MILE is the story of a small, remote town in the Wyoming frontier in it's death throes Reminiscent of such heavyweight Westerns as Walter Van Tilberg Clark's THE OX-BOW INCIDENT, Stephen Crane's masterpiece THE BLUE HOTEL, and Thomas Berger's LITTLE BIG MAN, INCIDENT AT TWENTY MILE is brutally realistic with an eerie afterward that seems to draw the reader inward to the last days of the American frontier. Trevanian's control of incident , language, character, and reportage envelopes the book into one of those perfectly realized stories all authors hope to create. Magnificent!
from Sarasota, Florida, USA, July 7, 2001 Story-telling at it's finest. . .All in all, this is as good a book as I have ever read, and I've read a lot. If you're not a western fan, don't sweat it - neither am I. But if you love a great story, great characters, and a great read, this one's for you.