The First Shot by L J Coburn
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This book was originally published in 1973 during the high point of the men's action paperback genre, and is definitely a product of that time. This quick, easy read relies on sex and violence rather than plot and characterization to entertain readers.
The title character Caleb Thorn is an unsympathetic cad, a Southern gentleman who cares about no one except his mother (and cares about her way too much). Early in the book, he kills a man in a duel, and by a series of circumstances ends up in the Union army under the command of the boy's father. The officer sends Thorn off on a suicide mission with a group of condemned men.
This is a well-worn formula but it works here. The action scenes are fast-paced and believable, and the tension is unrelenting.
I could have used some more background on the supporting cast. For example, one man is an expert on explosives (there's always an explosives expert in these things) but it's never explained where he got this uncommon skill. The whole book seems somewhat rushed, and padded out with sex scenes that are often distasteful rather than enticing.
If you're looking for an unchallenging read with lots of Saxon Violins (as they say), this may be for you. It's available as an inexpensive ebook from Piccadilly Publishing.
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