Readers’ Advisory 2: Brimstone. Robert B. Parker

Quick Facts 

Author: Robert B. Parker

Narrator: Titus Welliver

Published 2009 by Putnam, Audiobook by Random House Audio

4 discs, 5 hours. 9780739382950. $29.95US, $34CAN


Available in print, eBook, and audiobook

Why I Read It

I am not a reader of westerns. Sure, I’ll watch Bonanza and The Ponderosa and Gunsmoke and Cheyenne with my mom; the shows are just so damn engrossing. But I don’t read the books. I only watch the shows, because I grew up watching them with my grandmother, and watching them now brings a sense of nostalgia. Western books, though, have never been my cup of tea. I get my reading preferences from my grandmother. She read romance novels. I read romance novels. Logic.

Wanting to be a librarian, though, I figured I should try something new. I picked this up based on two things. 1) It’s short. It’s only four discs long. That’s one week’s worth of commutes to work. I can do that. 2) The librarian in charge of ordering the audiobooks recommended it to me, when  told him I was going to need to read “a dreaded western”. He said it was very cowboy-y, very western, but with a good story. I tried it.

TLL’s Tag

Virgil Cole & Everett Hitch have one mission: Find Allie French. But doing so will lead to all kinds of trouble.

The Rundown

Virgil and Everett are looking for Allie French, Virgil’s sweetie from Appaloosa. They’ve been looking for her for a while now, and finally they get word of her. She’s working on her back. Virgil’s not real happy about that. In fact, he can barely face her when they find her, and doesn’t touch her for months. Allie admits to hating her life as a whore, so Virgil and Everett take her with them when they leave, on their way to a job in Brimstone as deputy sheriffs.

Once in Brimstone, they notice a church run by Brother Percival that is ruining the saloon business in town. The only saloon left alone is Pike’s Palace, run by a man named Pike. Pike and Percival are in league, but Virgil and Everett can’t figure out how. It’s not until Virgil is told of whispered conversations and secret meetings between Pike and Percival that it becomes clear.

Have I mentioned the obligatory Native American kidnapper/human trafficker, the inevitable meetup and killing of said Native American, the rapes of a mother and her daughter in front of each other, the mother’s madness, the daughter’s muteness, Allie cheating on Virgil with Percival after telling him that she wouldn’t sleep with another man after her stint as a saloon whore. Well, now I have.

Here’s what I think

Brimstone is the third novel in the Virgil Cole & Everett Hitch series, originated by Robert B. Parker and continued now by Robert Knott. I did not realize this when I started reading it, and wouldn’t have known if I hadn’t added the book to my Goodreads lists. Parker does a great job of adding just enough back story that this book feels like a standalone. The characters, though, feel like every other gunslinger, whore, reformed whore, and crazy Jesus reverend in every other Western.

Brimstone was a compelling read, though, mainly because of the narrator, Titus Welliver. An accomplished television and film actor, his voice work was really good. As Parker uses “said” for every character utterance, I wouldn’t have been able to tell questions from yelling from whispering without his inflections. I’m pretty sure the only reason I kept listening was because I enjoyed Welliver’s reading. The story was typical genre fare, but Welliver made it more interesting.

Final decision

It was my first western, and I enjoyed myself.

3Q–Readable, without serious defects.

4P–Broad general or genre appeal.

Readalikes, courtesy of NoveList Plus


Louis L’Amour

William W. Johnstone

Elmore Leonard


Butch Cassidy, William W. Johnstone

Sixguns and Double Eagles, Ralph Compton

White Desert, Loren D. Estleman

Appeal Factors

Fast-paced, Spare, Gritty, atmospheric, witty

Book talk ideas

Pony Flores, the Mexican-Native American tracker

The confrontation between Virgil, Everett, Pony Flores, and Buffalo Calf.

Virgil stopping Pike from scalping Buffalo Calf

Book discussion questions

1) Buffalo Calf goes to very convoluted extremes to exact revenge on Pike. Do you think he could have done it in a more streamlined way?

2) What are your thoughts on the relationship between Virgil and Everett?

3) Even though Buffalo Calf has a name, Parker insists on calling him “the Indian”. Comment on this deliberate choice. Do you think it was more to stay true to the time period or an attempt to make the reader feel as though Buffalo Calf was less than human?

4) Allie French is a particular type of woman. She doesn’t  seem to know who she is without a man. Comment on her character arc over the course of Brimstone, based on the story itself and the context given by background info.

Clues to the Future

Virgil Cole, Everett Hitch, Brimstone, Robert B. Parker, Brother Percival, Jesus complex, reformed whore, western

Awards and Lists


Links to the Author, Interviews, and Reviews

Author site:

Wall Street Journal Interview:

Kirkus Reviews:

Blog Critics Review:


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