When first hearing William Dufris, as the cowboy/writer Otto Amlingmeyer, narrate Hokensmith's second mystery, listeners might initially think they are hearing a children's book. Not because of the content, but because of the downright goofy caricature of this Dr. Watson of the old West (to his brother Gustav's Holmes.) Dufris's over-the-top playing of Otto (aka Big Red) is initially jarring. However, within an hour, what seemed a distraction becomes a strength. In fact, Big Red soon endears himself to the listener as he recounts the tale of his illiterate would-be Sherlock Holmes big brother. It is no surprise that hyperbolic characterizations are natural to Dufris. Astute listeners may recognize his voice as TV's Bob the Builder. His colorful characters are all a bit cartoonish and that ends up being part of the charm of this package. His women are breathy, his Asians are Chan-like, and his newsboy is a hopped-up Jimmy Olsen. Hockensmith's material and Dufris's thespian silliness are a perfect complement to one another: its Watson and Holmes, meet Martin and Lewis. Simultaneous release with the St. Martin's Minotaur hardcover (Reviews, Dec. 18). (Mar.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
On the Wrong Track (Holmes on the Range Series #2)by Steve Hockensmith
It might be 1893 and the modern world may in full-swing, but cowboy Gustav "Old Red" Amlingmeyer is an old-fashioned kind of guy: he prefers a long trail ride even when a train could get him where he's going in one-tenth the time. His brother Otto ("Big Red"), on the other hand, wouldn't mind climbing down from his horse and onto a train once in a while if
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It might be 1893 and the modern world may in full-swing, but cowboy Gustav "Old Red" Amlingmeyer is an old-fashioned kind of guy: he prefers a long trail ride even when a train could get him where he's going in one-tenth the time. His brother Otto ("Big Red"), on the other hand, wouldn't mind climbing down from his horse and onto a train once in a while if it'll give his saddle-sore rear end a rest. So when it's Old Red who insists they sign on to protect the luxurious Pacific Express, despite a generations-old Amlingmeyer family distrust of the farm-stealin', cattle-killin', money-grubbin' railroads, Big Red is flummoxed. But Old Red, tired of the cowpoke life, wants to take a stab at professional ‘detectifying' just like his hero, Sherlock Holmes and guard jobs for the railroad are the only ones on offer.
So it is that Big Red and Old Red find themselves trapped on a thousand tons of steam-driven steel, summiting the Sierras en route to San Francisco with a crafty gang of outlaws somewhere around the next bend, a baggage car jam-packed with deadly secrets, and a vicious killer hidden somewhere amongst the colorful passengers.
On the Wrong Track, Old Red and Big Red's much anticipated return, is filled with all of the wit, flavor, humor, and suspense that made Hockensmith's debut, Holmes on the Range, so beloved by critics and fans alike.
This delightful sequel to Holmes on the Rangefinds cowboys Gustav and Otto Amlingmeyer becoming railroad detectives to protect the Southern Pacific from the notorious outlaws known as the Give-'em-Hell Boys. No sooner have the brothers embarked on a long trip to Oakland than they discover a severed head. In addition to protecting the train and trying to solve a murder through the techniques of Gustav's hero, Sherlock Holmes, the Amlingmeyers encounter a drunken legendary lawman, a suffragette, an exotic snake, and a coffin filled with Chinese treasures. More loosely plotted than its predecessor, On the Wrong Trackhas more action and humor and is certain to entertain fans of both Westerns and mysteries. William Dufris seems comfortable with Otto's narrative voice, and his relaxed approach contributes considerably to the tale's charm. Highly recommended for popular collections.
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On the Wrong Track
Or, Two Cowboys Cross Three States and Find No Jobs
Having spent the last year studying detective yarns, I know how one's supposed to start. Somebody walks into the hero's office (or sitting room, if the hero happens to be Mr. Sherlock Holmes) and spills out a tear squeezer. There's a little gore in it, maybe, as well as a few details that make about as much sense as trying to saddle smoke. A girl finds her father dead in his bed, for instance, and he's got a big grin on his face, a solid-gold dagger in his chest, and a bowl of bloody walnuts balanced on his head. The sleuth nods, sends the girl on her way, then turns to his pal (there's always a pal) and says something like "By thunder, Dickie, this is the most mystifying case I've ever encountered!" Then they're off to the walnut farm and bangthe detectiving kicks right in.
So I've got a little problem explaining how I came to be face-to-face with a flying head. Yes, it's a detective story, but I can't start it the proper way at all. There's no office, no sitting room, no bloody nuts. There's not even a proper detective. All I've got's an illiterate cowboy who fancies himself the Holmes of the Range and his not-quite-so-ambitious pal.
I'm the pal, by the wayOtto "Big Red" Amlingmeyer. The fellow with the grand ideas about himself is my elder brother, Gustav, better known along the cow trails as "Old Red." Not that he's some white-bearded coot babbling about his rheumatism and the War Between the States. Gustav's old in spirit, not age. He's only got twenty-seven years on him, yet he tends to droop around like each and every one was a loaded pack strapped upon his back.
He's been a little less droopy of late, though, if only because he finally found something in this sad old world of ours about which he could actually become enthused. It happened about a year back, in the summer of 1892. One night by a cattle-drive campfire, the trail boss whipped out a magazine story called "The Red-Headed League," and Gustav acted like the man it was aboutSherlock Holmeswas Moses, Abe Lincoln, and Santa Claus rolled up in one. Not only did he make me read that story to him over and over (his own knowledge of the alphabet petering out somewhere in the vicinity of g), he went digging for more detective tales. We got to know Nick Carter, King Brady, "Old Sleuth," and the rest of the dime-novel crowd pretty well. But Holmes was the only one of the bunch my brother respected. Even the so-called range detectivescowboy Pinkertons like Charlie Siringo and Burl Lockhartdidn't impress Old Red.
"Stringin' up rustlers and horse thieves ain't so tough. Most of them poor bastards ain't got enough brain between their ears to fill a thimble," he said. "Now Mr. Holmes, he goes up against fellers packin' some smarts ... only he packs more."
Before long, my brother wasn't just eager to hear and talk about Holmes, he was trying to act like him. He detected. He deduced.
He got us in a hell of a lot of trouble.
Nevertheless, when Gustav decided to take a stab at professional detecting, I didn't buck. I'd seen him test his deducifying on some bona fide mysteries, and by jingo if he hadn't cracked those puzzles open like peanuts. On top of that, I owed himfor a lot. If he wanted to play detective, the least I could do was play the pal.
Unfortunately, I was the only one willing to play along. Old Redand I spent this May and June ricocheting around Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho paying calls on each and every detective agency office we could find. Openings were scarce. Contempt for jobless drovers, on the other hand, was in ample supply. In fact, the closest we ever got to an offer of employment came after we crossed into Utah Territory, when the head Pinkerton agent in Ogden snickered that he was always looking for "no-account saddle bums" like ourselves ... because they had a price on their heads.
"How far we gonna take this, Gustav?" I asked as we stewed in nickel beer over this latest humiliation. "We've got enough cash to get us to a few more towns, but if this detectivin' job you're after is in New York or London or the Belgian Congo ... well, I'm sorry. We ain't gonna make it."
"No need to go that far yet," Old Red said. "We're only a hop and a skip from Salt Lake City. May as well head there next."
"And after that?"
My brother shrugged. "After that we'll try again somewhere else. And somewhere else after that and somewhere else after that, if we have to. No matter how many bad turns we take, we'll find the right trail sooner or later ... long as we don't stop lookin' for it."
I could've pointed out the irony of Gustav Amlingmeyer, the man who looks for the dark cloud around every silver lining, sermonizing on the importance of hope. But my brother got in his own jab firstand it caught me right in the gut.
"There's only one thing worse than givin' up, Otto, and that's not havin' the balls to try to begin with."
"I've got balls," I protested. "I just ain't anxious to have 'em stomped on."
Old Red gave me his excuses, excuses look, which combined a frown, a roll of the eyes, and a shake of the head in one quick, well-practiced movement. Perhaps because he was so doggedly chasing his dream, he found it galling that I should be so sluggish in pursuit of my own.
If Gustav was to become a homegrown Sherlock Holmes, I'd oncefigured, it was only natural that I should assume the role of his biographer, Dr. Watson. Yarnspinning has long been a specialty of mine, and I found it remarkably easy to put pen to paper and chronicle my brother's amateur sleuthing in a book.
What hadn't been so easy, however, was working up the nerve to do something with the damned thing once it was finished.
"You can't haul that big ol' bundle of paper around foreverit ain't fair to your horse, let alone yourself," Old Red said. "What're you waitin' for? Harper's to send you a letter askin' for it?"
I lifted my glass and took a long, slow pull, hiding behind a wall of suds. As I drank, I prayed in vain for some disruptiona brawl, a stampede through the streets, the tooting of Gabriel's trumpet, anything. I got nothing, though, and eventually I had to either face my brother or drown in beer.
"Well?" Gustav prodded the second my glass left my lips.
"I just need a little more time to think on it, that's all."
"What's left to think? It's done."
"Yeah, but I might wanna whittle it down some. When I read it to you, you yourself said it's long-winded."
"Well, so are you, but I don't keep you tied up in my war bag on account of it."
I took another drink, but there was little more than foam left, and I didn't get much of a respite.
"Look," I said, "we been over this. I'm just ... bidin' my time."
"Pissin' it away, more like."
I sighed. There were days my brother hardly spoke at all, except to say "Mind that gopher hole" or "We'll camp here" or (when our unvarying trail diet of pemmican and beans had its inevitable consequences) "Whew! Damn!" Yet when it came to my failure of nerve as a would-be writer, I could not get the man to shut up.
"Speakin' of pissin' ... ," I began, intending to escape the subject of my cowardice by (appropriately enough) running away.
But before I could beat a retreat toward the privy, the distraction I'd hoped for finally arrived. It came in the form of a thin, gnarledjerky-stick of a man staggering toward us from the bar. I would say he was three sheets to the wind, only I think he had a good many more sheets a-flapping than that. I was almost surprised when he managed to come to a swaying stop in front of our table instead of collapsing across the top of it.
"Hey," he said, and even as simple a sound as that came off his whiskey-numbed lips quivery and slurred. "I remember you."
"And I remember you," I said, not bothering to sound like I treasured the memory.
He'd been in the Pinkerton office that morninga sixtyish, sour-faced fellow hunched over at a desk toward the back of the room. I'd once worked in an office of sorts myself, clerking in a Kansas granary, and I pegged him as a type I knew well: the sullen sluggard. I'd met plenty such men in the drovering profession, too, but they seem to particularly flourish in the shadowy corners of dimly lit offices.
The old man hadn't said a word as his boss belittled us. His only contribution to the conversation had been a sour chuckle when I'd pointed out that famous lawmen like Charlie Siringo and Burl Lockhart had been no more than "no-account saddle bums" themselves before the Pinkerton National Detective Agency hired them on. Another laugh at our expense was all I expected now, and I waited for him to fire some quip at us he'd been too slow on the draw to pop off earlier.
My low expectations must have been obvious, for the man tried to put on a reassuring smile. Such displays of good humor didn't appear natural to himhis face was so leathery I could practically hear the skin creaking as his lips curled into a grin.
"I might be able to help you," he said, his words still coming out as gloppy thick as oatmeal. "You see ... I'm Burl Lockhart."
"The Burl Lockhart?" Gustav asked, looking him up and down.
What my brother beheld before him was hardly fodder for a dime novelunless it concerned itself with the adventures of a palsied clerk or boozy newspaperman. That's what the fellow resembled more than anything else, what with his shabby trousers, ink-splattered shirt, poorly knotted tie, and crinkled and discolored collar. Only one thingabout him suggested derring-do on the open range: the .44 with a mother-of-pearl grip that was slung at his hip. It looked as out of place on him as bloomers on a bull.
"At your service," the man said, his grin going lopsided as it spread itself wider.
"Mighty pleased to make your acquaintance, Burl." I stretched out my hand. "It's about time we bumped into each other. You see, I'm Buffalo Bill Cody, and this here's Annie Oakley."
My words turned the man to stone. His swaying and blinking and even breathing stopped, and only two parts of him still seemed alive at allhis lips, which flattened into a straight line that cut across his face like barbed wire pulled tight, and his right hand, which didn't reach out to take mine but instead started moving toward the grip of his gun.
Suddenly, I was looking at a different manone who wasn't so much gaunt as he was pure, having shed everything soft about himself until all that remained was gristle and bone and bitterness. And this new, infinitely more daunting fellow did indeed seem strangely familiar. I thought back on the newspaper and magazine illustrations I'd seen of Burl Lockhart. If I added wrinkles and whiskers and subtracted meat and muscle ...
Sweet Jesus, it really was him!
We were face-to-face with a man who'd traded potshots with the James brothers, befriended (and betrayed) Billy the Kid, and tucked more rustlers, robbers, and renegades under dirt blankets than any other lawman in the West.
He was more than a man, really. He was a legend ... and I'd practically spat in his face.
And now he was getting set to spit lead in mine.
ON THE WRONG TRACK. Copyright © 2007 by Steve Hockensmith. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews. For information, address St. Martin's Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010.
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Meet the Author
Steve Hockensmith is an entertainment journalist who writes for The Hollywood Reporter, The Chicago Tribune, The Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Newsday, Total Movie, and was the editor in chief of Cinescape Magazine. He also writes a monthly column for Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine called Reel Crime, and his stories appear a few times a year in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine. He is the author of the critically acclaimed Holmes on the Range, On the Wrong Track and The Black Dove featuring Old and Big Red.
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I literally read this book in one day! Great mystery, great twists and turns. I highly recommend this book!
Here is yet another adventure of Gustav and Otto, the Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson of the Old West.
This one isn't quite as good as Hockensmith's first effort - I guess a little bit of the novelty has worn off, and frankly there are a few less Holmesian elements in the story. But overall this is still a fun read (or listen, in my case, since my review is based on the audiobook).
And the possibility of a life's companion for Otto was very intriguing. Diana sounds like a cross between Watson's wife Mary and Irene Adler - I hope more of the former, since the real Ms Adler was one of Holmes' most worthy adversaries.
I also have to put in a good word for the reader of this audiobook. He certainly knows his craft. I don't know if he also did "Holmes on the Range" but if Hockensmith puts out another sequel (which seems likely) I hope he reads that one as well.
This is a sequel to the western mystery ¿Holmes on the Range,¿ where Mr. Hockensmith introduced his characters Otto and Gustav Amlingmeyer, known as Big Red and Old Red. This time, the two cowpunchers, who emulate a western Dr. Watson and Sherlock Holmes, sign on as genuine railroad detectives to protect the Southern Pacific from a gang of outlaws called the Give-Em Hell Boys. The prologue has our boys observe a freshly severed head roll by as they were busy ¿guarding¿ the train. Old Red continues to do his best by following his hero Sherlock Holmes¿ methods as he starts ¿deducifying¿ the situation. The Old West theme is portrayed well with often hilarious situations and dialogue, plus the colorful characters are very realistic. As we follow the boys adventure, the book gains momentum and becomes more and more exciting. In many ways it's better than ¿Holmes on the Range¿ because of its more thrilling storyline, however for Holmes purists, it is somewhat less ¿Sherlockian.¿ I still highly recommend it.
This is a sequel to the western mystery ¿Holmes on the Range,¿ where Mr. Hochensmith introduced his characters Otto and Gustav Amlingmeyer, known as Big Red and Old Red. This time, the two cowpunchers, who emulate a western Dr. Watson and Sherlock Holmes, get to sign on as genuine railroad detectives to protect the Southern Pacific from a gang of outlaws called the Give-Em Hell Boys. The prologue has the boys observe a freshly severed head roll by as they were busy ¿guarding¿ the train. Big Red continues to do his best by following his hero Sherlock Holmes¿ methods as he starts ¿deducifying¿ the situation. The Old West theme is portrayed well with often hilarious dialog and situations, plus the colorful characters are very realistic. As we follow the boys adventure, the book gains momentum and becomes more and more exciting. It is in many ways better than ¿Holmes on the Range¿ because of its more thrilling storyline, however for Holmes purists, it is somewhat less ¿Sherlockian.¿ I still highly recommend it.
Mr. Hockensmith brings the Amlingmeyer brothers back for another mystery to 'deducify'. While it's not as good as the first story it is still a great read. I anxiously await more Holmes on the Range books from Mr. Hockensmith.
In 1893 following the latest train robbery by the 'Give-'em-Hell Boys' the Southern Pacific hires detectives Gustav 'Old Red' and Otto 'Big Red' Amlingmeyer to guard the latest shipment of gold. Riding the rails, the siblings are stunned when the head of baggage handler Joe Pezullo falls from the moving train. Whereas Big Red insists it is not in their job description, Old Red decides to investigate the homicide.--------------- Using the logic of his hero Sherlock Holmes, Old Red begins querying the passengers in the Pullman to see if he can find clues. He starts and finishes with sexy suffragist Diana Caveo though he also talks with Dr. Chan and the Reds¿ peer cowboy detective Burl Lockhart, but learns little except that Miss Caveo is a babe. He finds inside the baggage car a snake, two coffins and the King of the Hoboes 'Numero Uno.' The case remains illogical until they find Thornton's Boiler #2 saloon where the Reds rescue Lockhart and Chan from drunken cowboys then the investigation spins even further out of control.--------------- Readers will appreciate the Reds¿ second amusing zany western Americana mystery (See HOLMES ON THE RANGE) as everything is afoot once Old Red applies his brand of Holmesian logic to the murder. The story line is hilarious with nothing from the late nineteenth century considered sacred as lampooning the absurd is the norm. Fans of jocular 1890s whodunits will laugh along side Big and Old Red as they guard the gold, investigate a murder, and cause havoc.-------------- Harriet Klausner