I was thinking about rattlesnakes the other day. I had to go outside and do a little trimming on my hedge and although it isn't likely that a reptile would be hiding in there, I always look before stepping anywhere close to bushes, etc., since there are venomous critters lurking about the area in general. The evening news a few weeks ago reported that seven people had gotten bit with the warmer weather bringing out the sneaky critters. There was a teenaged girl in Tucson that went for her daily walk the other day and she got bitten by one of the devils. She was wearing flip-flops and it bit her toe.
So, anyway, I have had The Snake Den by Charles Tyrell (Charles Whipple) on my computer for a few months and it came to mind as I was contemplating snakes. It's a fairly long ebook of about 327 pages, but it kept me on my toes all the while I was reading it. It's the story of young Shawn Brodie, a fourteen-year-old, who was railroaded into the infamous Yuma Prison by a man, Fen Dillard, who had designs on Brodie's mother. Shawn had a younger sister at home when he was paraded off to Yuma. Shawn's offense was shooting a cow that broke her leg by stepping into a "dog hole" and he whacked off a hind quarter to assuage his family's hunger. This Fen Dillard gent said he was a thief for stealing the meat after he shot the cow.
The youngest convict in the prison was Shawn Brodie, but they treated him like all the other convicts and put him in a cell with a card sharp, a gunslinger, and a "Chinaman". Brodie was an intelligent kid and the longer he was there, the more he learned from his cellmates, especially the guntoter and the Chinaman, who began teaching him Kara ti to help him defend himself. And there was a lot of defending to do with the likes of the Sergeant of the Guard Bull Tarkington, a sadistic and terrible excuse for a man, and the other guards who ran the prison. The Warden was a man with a wife who ran the prison library, and he was fair in his treatment of the prisoners.
Shawn Brodie got off on the wrong side of Tarkington and was soon hustled off to the room called the snake den. The snakes would fall through a hole cut in the roof of the cave that let in the only light, in this otherwise stark black cell. That was a gut-wrencher as he sat out his time there. On Sunday, one day a month, the Yuma citizens could visit the prison by paying a fee of a quarter, which helped to pay the library expenses. This is a tautly written novel with great suspense and action throughout, as the author explains the good and bad, really bad, events that young Brodie must overcome, like being forced to fight the big champion of the prison in front of the townspeople, who could kill Brodie with a well-placed fist and almost did. And there is crisis after crisis that keeps the suspense rolling along fast and furious. I could barely turn away from the computer each day, but I had to interrupt my reading over three days it took to get through it. I will end this so I don't blow the outcome of Brodie, but I tell you, it was a mighty fine read and parts of it were tough, especially when prison sex entered it's ugly head. There is some relief when Shawn meets pretty Ann Marie Schoen one Sunday and is quite taken with her.
Another fine book well worth the time it takes to read it.