Road to Reckoning: A Novel

Road to Reckoning: A Novel

4.5 4
by Robert Lautner

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“Remarkable…A novel about a young man reaching for manhood after the killing of his father and about the invention and selling of Col. Samuel Colt’s revolving pistol, and the way it changed the West. Those who love True Grit will love this” (Michael Korda, author of Hero).

One does not travel the path to vengeance alone


“Remarkable…A novel about a young man reaching for manhood after the killing of his father and about the invention and selling of Col. Samuel Colt’s revolving pistol, and the way it changed the West. Those who love True Grit will love this” (Michael Korda, author of Hero).

One does not travel the path to vengeance alone

Twelve -year -old Thomas Walker has never left New York City. His father, a traveling salesman hoping to earn money by selling Samuel Colt’s recent invention, the “Improved Revolving Gun,” takes young Thomas with him on the road. But even the world’s first true revolver cannot save them from danger, and what starts as an adventure soon turns into a nightmare.

Thomas soon finds himself alone, and must rely on his own wits, courage, and determination, as well as a wooden replica of the Colt revolver, to protect himself. Luckily, an encounter with a surly ex-ranger, Henry Stands, leads to an improbable partnership, and the two set out in perilous pursuit of vengeance. That is, if they can escape the thieves who lurk around each trail, river, and road—and who have already stolen so much from Thomas.

In the spirit of The Sisters Brothers and True Grit, this spare, elegant, and emotionally resonant story conveys, through a boy’s eyes, a beautiful father-son story, as well as the fascinating history of how the birth of the revolver changed the course of violence in America. Road to Reckoning offers a window into the history of the American West and the heart of a boy yearning for love.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
British author Lautner impresses in his debut with a crackling coming-of-age revenge tale set in the lawless wilderness of pre-Civil War Pennsylvania. 20 year-old Thomas Walker is accustomed to riding through the northeastern United States on door-to-door sales errands with his father, an early salesman of revolving pistols. When a gang of robbers shoot his father, leaving Thomas an orphan on the road, he begins a harrowing journey back to New Jersey to cash in his father's unredeemed sales commissions, armed only with his resourcefulness and a wooden sample model of the revolver. He soon meets Henry Stands, a bounty hunter headed toward Philadelphia in search of work. Despite Henry's reluctance, the two embark on a picaresque that eventually sees Thomas escape from a sinister orphanage in daring fashion and confront his father's murderers. Thomas recounts these formative events of his youth through the hindsight of adulthood with wisdom that makes him an appealing narrator with a knack for a poetic turn of phrase. The descriptions of the wilderness and cities of 19th century Pennsylvania feel particularly alive and specific. The grizzled, depressive nature of the Henry Stands character will undoubtedly draw comparisons to Rooster Cogburn, and the arc by which the two protagonists become friends is well-worn territory. Still the story is a comforting pleasure with many rewards. (Feb.)
St. Louis-Post Dispatch
“Lautner’s ear for dialogue and eye for detail [are] so remarkable. . . . We’re indebted to Lautner for a dandy story.”
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
A St. Louis Post-Dispatch Best Book of the Year

“[Road to Reckoning] is drawing inevitable comparisons to Charles Portis’ True Grit. . . . What the two books most have in common is elegant writing and an air of historical authenticity. . . . Unforgettable characters give the book an unexpected staying power.”

The Oklahoman
“Lautner knows how to a turn a phrase, and his novel is a delight to read, to pause and go back, and read again just to feel the flavor of the words as they move forward off the tongue. I am interested in seeing what he writes next.”
Joshua Ferris
"As simply told tales go, this is one of the best. It shares with its hero a plain eloquence and a determination and a grace rare in the world and in books. Give Road to Reckoning to every man you know and they'll thank you for it.”
Free Lance-Star
“A novel you won’t soon forget. . . Provides a harrowing glimpse into a period of America that history books have tended to neglect.”
Historical Novels Review
“A well-written literary novel. . . . I could picture the events happening as if I were watching a movie. . . . [Lautner] has shown the land and people of early 19th-century pioneer America with historical accuracy. It will probably be on my list of the top 10 books I’ve read this year.”
Penthouse Magazine
“Tailor-made for the movies (think True Grit). . . . Lautner’s swiftly moving tale reanimates a forgotten era and location in American history.”
Oxford Royale Academy
“If you love famous westerns like All The Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy or Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry you must read Robert Lautner’s Road to Reckoning.”
Michael Korda
“Remarkable … A novel about a young man reaching for manhood after the killing of his father and about the invention and selling of Col. Samuel Colt's revolving pistol, and the way it changed the West. Those who love True Grit will love this."
"Lautner's is a tale of guns and grit that will remind most readers of Charles Portis' modern classic True Grit, with Henry Stands a stand-in for Rooster Cogburn. None of this is to discount the frontier charm of Road to Reckoning or the appealing voice of its protagonist, Thomas, a worthy successor to Mattie Ross."
The Times (UK)
“A thrilling, violent, dangerous piece of old-fashioned storytelling, that is also humane and unshowily moving.”
Simon Winchester
"This quiet triumph of a novel, a sad and impeccably nuanced tale set against a finely drawn landscape of early pioneer America, left me just amazed and delighted; it will surely establish Robert Lautner as a storyteller of the first order."
Kathleen Grissom
"Not a single needless word in Road to Reckoning, a beautiful gem of a novel, exquisitely written and swiftly plotted. Featuring an unforgettable character on a hero's journey, it packs an old-fashioned emotional wallop."
Silas House
"Road to Reckoning is a rare feat of storytelling. Robert Lautner has created something truly wonderful in the character of Thomas Walker—whose steady, strong voice I won't soon forget—and the vivid world he inhabits. This is a literary thriller in the best sense, simultaneously gritty and tender, rousing and lyrical."
Stephen Kelman
"Robert Lautner has written a compelling, poetic page-turner that really impresses with its precision and heart. . . . In Thomas Walker and Henry Stands he has created characters who live in the memory long after the book is closed. In their relationship I read hope, and honor: a boy seeking his father and a man finding the father within him."
Kirkus Reviews
On the road in 1830s Pennsylvania, a boy comes of age with brutal suddenness; a twisty, gripping first novel from British author Lautner. Thomas is a bookish only child in Manhattan, home-schooled by his aunt. Everything changes for the 12-year-old narrator in 1837. His mother dies of smallpox, and the financial panic forces his father, a mild-mannered salesman of eyeglasses, to visit the young Samuel Colt's firearms company. (Colt's pernicious influence haunts the work.) Thomas' dad will take orders for pistols, traveling with horse and wagon through Pennsylvania settlements before venturing further West. Their expedition ends when a ruffian, Thomas Heywood, and three trashy accomplices follow father and son to their camp, take their guns and money, and shoot the father dead. The boy returns to the store where they met Heywood to report the murder and runs into the redoubtable Henry Stands. The hell-raising, gun-loving old timer was once a ranger; his latest mission is to round up escaped prisoners for a price. A good man or a bad? Thomas, reeling from the actions of a villain, must now learn there are shades of gray. Henry ignores the boy's plight, but Thomas is persistent, and Henry becomes his reluctant protector. The pairing may remind readers of the grizzled curmudgeon and needy youngster in Charles Portis' True Grit and its two movie versions, but this novel does not have the straightforward trajectory of the revenge quest. Thomas just wants to go home; Henry is after his bounty. Then Heywood and company ambush them, and Henry has a score to settle. In a further complication, Thomas is threatened with removal to an orphan asylum. There will be two shootouts, with different sets of adversaries, but Lautner offers more than action. There's a quiet, exquisite moment when Henry, preparing a rabbit for their dinner, stoically recalls his son, who died in infancy. Despite some loose ends and an unsatisfying framing device, a robust debut that wears its meticulous research lightly.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch (Best Book of 2014)
A St. Louis Post-Dispatch Best Book of the Year

Like "True Grit,” this novel stars a youngster who travels across the Wild West with a crusty adult. But this tale’s hero is a boy, and the author’s eye for detail and ear for dialogue show the large amount of research that a good novelist will undertake.

Product Details

Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.70(w) x 8.50(h) x 1.00(d)

Meet the Author

Robert Lautner was born in Middlesex, England, in 1970. Before becoming a writer he owned his own comic bookstore, and was a wine merchant, photographic consultant, and recruitment consultant. He lives on the coast of Pembrokeshire, Wales, in a wooden cabin with his wife and children.

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Road to Reckoning: A Novel 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Ronrose More than 1 year ago
Give me more from this author. Robert Lautner has crafted a compelling tale of a young boy who lives through a lifetime of experiences in a week. Thomas, not yet in his teen years, has lost his mother to smallpox. His father is trying to make a living selling spectacles in New York during the depression of the early eighteen hundreds. In the hopes of making a better living his father takes a job as a salesman for the recently patented Colt revolver. Thomas and his father head into the sparsely settled hills of central Pennsylvania on the road west. The trip is cut short when they run across a band of outlaws who kill Thomas's father. All their belongings, including their firearm samples are stolen, with the exception of a wooden replica of the Colt revolver. Thomas, left on his own, tries to find his way back to New York where his aunt lives. His bad fortune turns when he runs across Henry Stands, a grizzled, mountain of a man. He has no truck for babysitting a twelve year old green horn, but Thomas can be just as stubborn in his quest to get home. The two must find their way east through many trials, including a showdown with the outlaws who killed Thomas's father. This is a very engaging tale that quickly draws you in and keeps your interest from start to finish.
Man_Of_La_Book_Dot_Com More than 1 year ago
Road to Reck­on­ing by Robert Laut­ner is a west­ern novel tak­ing place in 1837 This is Mr. Lautner’s debut novel. At age 12 Thomas Walker, a shel­tered boy liv­ing in New York City, joins his father, a trav­el­ing sales­man, to go out west and sell Samuel Colt’s rev­o­lu­tion­ary "Improved Revolv­ing Gun". Not long after their trav­els start, Thomas’ father is killed by rob­bers, and the young orphan tries to make it back home with his few pos­ses­sions, includ­ing a wooden model of the gun, and no money, rely­ing on the kind­ness of strangers. Thomas is paired with Henry Stands, a crabby Indi­ana Ranger who likes to be left alone while he pur­sues crim­i­nals for bounty. Though Thomas is intim­i­dated by the Ranger, who intends to leave him at the first town he finds, he feels secure and does his best to stick around. Road to Reck­on­ing by Robert Laut­ner is the story of Thomas Walker, a 12 year old boy who is caught between world’s, is not a boy and not a man, and he doesn’t get to decide which one. The boy, still vul­ner­a­ble, wants to be a macho man but is not match for the shys­ters and rough men he meets. The book is dark, vio­lent but also very enjoy­able. The char­ac­ters are com­plex, inter­est­ing and engag­ing, the story is very good and, due to the dark nature of the book, I didn’t know if it will have a happy end or not. One of the most inter­est­ing aspects of the novel, for me, was the rela­tions of the elder Thomas with his dead father, since the story is told in hind­sight by an older Thomas look­ing at his adven­tures with a sense of for­give­ness and matu­rity which is sur­pris­ing. The elder Thomas for­gives his father’s short­com­ing, and mis­takes which, at times, put his young life at risk. Walker and his pro­tec­tor, Henry Stands, make an inter­est­ing due. Walker wants to get home to his aunt after wit­ness­ing his father’s mur­der, Stands couldn’t care less about the boy but as the jour­ney extends, both see that there is some­thing more than just reach­ing an end point. This book was my first big sur­prise of 2014, a west­ern writ­ten by an Eng­lish­man about a boy writ­ten with intel­li­gence and charisma.
Twink More than 1 year ago
3.5/5 It was the cover blurb on the cover of Robert Lautner's book, Road to Reckoning, that compelled me to pick it up....."Those who love True Grit will love this." 1837 New York City. Thomas Walker and his father (formerly a spectacle salesman) strike out on the road West to sell a new product - guns. Specifically, Samuel Colt's new improved 'revolving gun'. They have samples to show and Thomas has a wooden replica as well. Walker Sr. is a gentle man, not one overly familiar with guns or violence. It is inevitable that others would want and simply take the guns. But what is also taken Walker Sr.'s life. Leaving young Thomas alone to fend for himself....until he hooks up with Henry Stands - a man more than familiar with the use of guns. It is Thomas in his older years who narrates the tale of his youth. "I, to this day, hold to only one truth: if a man chooses to carry a gun he will get shot. My father agreed to carry twelve." Young Thomas is old beyond his years, yet still a child. Lautner wonderfully describes the relationship between Thomas and his father, making it all the more heartbreaking when it is cut short. The relationship between Stands and Thomas is just as moving. Stands as a character leapt off the page for me. The prose are spare, but Thomas's observations and thoughts are compelling. The Road to Reckoning is filled with adventure and action as well. And Lautner's descriptions of time and place set the tone perfectly. The history of firearms and Colt's fledgling revolver was also very interesting. Lautner has written a Western coming of age tale set on the rough roads and towns of a young America. And yes, it is very similar in tone to True Grit. But definitely worth a read. (And it would make a great movie) (I was surprised to see that Lautner is not an American author - rather he lives in Wales.)
Mirella More than 1 year ago
Twelve year old Thomas Walker heads out on the road with his father, a travelling salesman peddling a new gun, the Colt Revolver. A chance encounter with a dangerous outlaw leaves Thomas alone after his father is shot. He must find his way home alone. Henry Stands is a former ranger who reluctantly finds himself burdened with Thomas as he leads the boy home. But Thomas is bent on revenging his father’s death, and it is this desire that continually draws Henry into the conflict. Told through the point of view of young Thomas, in this coming of age novel, there is much to enjoy. First, the characters are unique, raw, charismatic, fascinating. So well developed, I could not help but turn the pages to see what they would do and say next. There were many tense scene as well as ones that truly touched the heart. It can definitely be compared with True Grit, but has its own unique story and setting. It is a different type of western novel, strongly character driven but with a powerful storyline. I truly loved this novel. Beautifully rendered, it was poignant yet gripping. I especially enjoyed learning about the history of Colt and his guns and its effect on America's west. There is something in this novel that is sure to please every reader, no matter the gender, no matter the age.