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on 13 October 2015
I enjoyed this story, I do have a perchant for a bit of Americana. In this particular story Whicher, the US Marshall isn't the main character, your more through the eyes of the Heist men. In my minds eye I saw Whicher as a gritty 50 something, maybe silver haired and 10 gallon on the head, I cant remember if his age is mentioned and it confused me a bit more after reading the 2nd in the series, when he is described as a mid to late 20 something ex army joining the US Marshals and being on his first case. But thats another review, John Stonehouse describes a lifestyle and a place that I will probably never see or interact with yet I love the setting, the subject matter is dark and life is hard in these places, these barren, scarred, half desert very hot areas. Great stuff will read more.
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on 15 September 2015
It was a good story but it just didn't grip me. I really wanted to like the book but for some reason I found that I wasn't desperate to read it and find out what was going to happen next. I think the way that the book was written with characters using the colloquialisms of the place it was set in just didn't do it for my English brain. I also didn't feel that close to either of the main characters not caring much for what was about to happen to them. t is well written and the setting is great, I could see it being made in to a film, but the story just wasn't exceptional for me.
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on 25 October 2015
This is a riveting and faced paced thriller from beginning to end set against the harsh Texan landscape. The narrative switches cleverly between the ex-Marines on the run, in a desert hauntingly and ironically reminiscent of Iraq, and the decent Marshall, John Whicher, hot in pursuit, a vet himself of an earlier Middle Eastern venture. The effect of these overseas wars on the Vets and the plight they face back home is told forcefully without sentimentality. The bleak landscape is brilliantly captured and provides a fitting backdrop to the effect of failed international and domestic policies which drastically shape ordinary peoples' lives. A must read!
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on 29 September 2016
Whicher, a U.S. Marshall is on the track of the criminals. This is written through the eyes of the "Bad guy" who is a likeable character. Different perspective on this, great story line and characters. A highly enjoyable read, well recommended.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 18 April 2014
Always keen to highlight debut authors, John Stonehouse has proved to be a real find with his first book, An American Outlaw. This is a blistering slice of modern Americana that is hugely reminiscent in the spare, sparse style of authors like Cormac McCarthy, Ace Atkins and Denis Johnson, and hooks the reader throughout with its depiction of a fast-moving and tension filled manhunt across Texas.

The action focuses on Gilman James (a distant relation of outlaw Jesse James) and his two cohorts, having successfully completed one heist, and on the verge of a second in the far southwest of Texas. However, due to an unfortunate power outage, and the gung-ho actions of the other members of his team, their second job leads to death and injury and sees Gil and his injured friend on the receiving end of a desperate manhunt in the company of Tennille Labrea, a woman harbouring a secret and with an agenda all of her own. Stonehouse splits the action effectively between the trio’s flight from justice, and the actions of those who pursue them, headed by John Whicher from the US Marshals Office- a dogged and uncompromising ex-soldier who always aims gets his man.

With the ex-military background of James, his cohorts, and the marvellous and dogged Whicher, Stonehouse plays heavily on the themes of friendship, loyalty and the bonds and experiences illicited by the involvement in military conflict, and this is a real strength of the book. There is an interesting play on the way that the moral duty afforded to those who serve their country can be quickly unravelled in their return to society, as evinced by James and his friends’ actions. Stonehouse reveals a step at a time the connection between the main male characters through their military service across both Gulf Wars, highlighting key events across their tours of duty, and how these incidents have shaped and defined their connections to one another. The characters of Whicher and James, in particular, are incredibly well- defined, and lead to a shifting of loyalties in the reader’s conscience along the way, as neither man is wholly good or bad, making them both vital to the central plot and the holding of the reader’s interest. The pace is relentless and tense, and supported by this excellent characterisation, truly keeps those pages turning. Although I was initially less sure about the introduction of the female charater, Tennille, a young Hispanic woman joining up with the fugitives, my fears were quickly assuaged, as her story was integrated well into the main plot, thus undoing my feeling of her being a token female character to make up the numbers.

The atmosphere and location of the action is brilliantly rendered, with clipped and precise descriptions of the dusty environs of the Texas landscape and its haunting but desolate beauty. You can almost hear the twanging strains of a lone guitar, as the fugitives track across this endless wasteland of run down gas stations, diners and the miles and miles of deserted and hostile Texan terrain. It is incredibly visual, and also ramps up the tension tenfold, as the fugitives’ desperation increases in the sights of their dogged pursuer. Aided by the authentic and spare dialogue which captures the linguistic rhythms of Gilman’s southern roots and the Texan drawl of others, and the superb characterisation of the central characters, I would thoroughly recommend this. A good read.
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Remember Tommy Lee Jones’ stand-out performance in The Fugitive, when he romps through the ‘warehouse, farmhouse, henhouse, outhouse and doghouse’ speech? An American Outlaw feels like a full-length novelisation of that moment; a relentless pursuit among the sun-scorched mountain trails and dirt tracks of west Texas with a committed US marshal tracking a fleeing trio after a bank raid goes horribly wrong…

Except An American Outlaw has considerably more depth to it than this quick synopsis suggests. It’s written in stylised ‘modern Americana’; stripped back descriptions and short sentences which verge on terse, but which perfectly capture the landscape of highway diners, remote hill cabins and dusty border towns with snoozing lawmen. The dialogue is similarly sparse and sharp; the drawl almost oozes off the page in some places.
The action takes place in the here-and-now when a group of ex-Marines stage a series of robberies. Things get wildly out of shape within the first couple of pages – making the opening chapter a rip-snorting read indeed. We follow one of the robbers, Gil, a veteran of the second Gulf War as he scrambles across the Texas landscape trying to evade a full-scale manhunt and make sense of what’s happened to his men-at-arms. Much of the plot revolves around Gil’s loyalty to his friends and their families, and the complex relationships between them. The core of the story examines the oh-so serious issue of how society looks after its returning soldiers when the war no longer needs them – but the author doesn’t let that subtext overwhelm the fast pace of the ongoing action.
So An American Outlaw is no Mickey-and-Mallory killing spree: there’s far more to the story than the obligatory helping of guns, trucks and feisty backwoods women. Additional characters enter the narrative as the net tightens and we discover the personal history which motivates the robbers. The author reveals a little more each time the action pauses and this gives the novel its solid moral centre – one reflected in the eventual outcome and the fate of the key characters.
It’s not perfect, mind; some of the minor characters are so sketchily drawn that I had trouble telling them apart, and the pace of the plot is a touch too relentless. A couple of more contemplative / descriptive passages would have heightened the tension in the set-piece encounters and the narrative would have benefitted from a change in rhythm and tone here and there.
For this book is entirely relentless – and this is very well realised – you almost feel the gritty exhaustion of the fugitives after several days in hiding; bleeding, surrounded and fresh out of alternatives…

An American Outlaw aspires to be a great American novel, and it almost makes the grade – which is a considerable achievement for an independent author. It very much has the sense and style of a 21st century western, right down to the traditional 'good man doing bad things for the right reason' motif. If you enjoy Cormac McCarthy or Jim Thomson then this is easily worth the cover price.

8/10
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on 2 December 2013
I hadn't heard of this author before, but I'm glad I took a punt. Gripping story, had me hooked from the start. Great setting in Texas, very moody and atmospheric. It's a bit out of the ordinary, seeing through the eyes of the hunter and the hunted. It drew me in and kept me there. Would recommend.
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on 9 October 2014
An American Outlaw is a debut novel from author John Stonehouse. We have a fast-paced tale of robbery and pursuit set in wildest Texas. Fairly straight-forward you would think, but there’s a depth to the prose which extends far beyond that of some of the books I read.

We have a fantastic setting, vividly depicted, so much so I’m sure I coughed and spat desert dust as I turned the pages.

We have an interesting mix of characters, mainly focusing around a trio of strong, determined and likeable individuals; Gil – a disaffected veteran, loyal to friends and family but now willing to put himself on the wrong side of the law, like his famous ancestor; Tennille – a single Hispanic mother, getting by but unwilling to sacrifice her daughter to her abusive ex-husband and looking for an opportunity to forge a new life for them both away from his clutches; and Whicher, another veteran and now a Marshal. Whicher has a decency about him, as well as tenacity and acumen – a quality which serves him well in his pursuit of Gilman James after poor fortune and impetuosity from his partners in crime derail the meticulous planning laid in place.

Stonehouse weaves together our three main characters into a fast moving plot-line, producing a tale that ultimately resolves satisfactorily, leaving our characters’ integrity intact. In doing so he touches on issues which effect a lot of people today on either side of the Atlantic ……. economic downturn, banks, foreclosure, poor prospects, rejection and isolation, provoking feelings of powerlessness and disenfranchisement. Should we be surprised when people decide to fight back?

I’m looking forward to more from this powerful author in the years to come.

4 from 5 initially, on reflection re-scored to 5 from 5 - can't think of a valid reason why not!

He was kind enough to send me a copy of this bad boy in return for an honest review.
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on 28 November 2013
A truly exciting story with suspense from start to finish.Great descriptions of flora and terrain helps to build up the atmosphere of the hot and dusty and desolate landscape .Characters are well drawn and frighteningly realistic. A good read.
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on 18 April 2014
An American Outlaw is the brilliantly accomplished, adrenaline fuelled and emotionally charged debut thriller by author John Stonehouse.
Gil James is a Gulf war veteran. He returns home remarkably unscathed himself but for his childhood buddies Michael, Nate and Steven, Traumatic Brain Injury, a disastrous last mission and a return home to families suffering from lack of support and financial ruin have all taken their toll.
Hang on to your seat as this “Cat and Mouse” game plays out before you. A bank robbery goes wrong and a dramatic and exciting chase begins, across a wild, desolate Texas landscape with uninhabited tracks and few people to busy diners, a cattle auction and lots more.
Add a determined US marshal, John Whicher, a beautiful young Mexican woman, Tennille Labrea, a great mix of narrative and dialogue, plenty of action , a clever and unexpected ending and you have this highly recommended, 5 star action crime thriller .
A great novel and very much look forward to the next.
Happy reading everyone!!
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