Orchard: A Novel by Jack H. Bailey
Independently Published, 2016. Trade paperback, 363 pages.
Orchard is a biographical fiction novel about Albert Horsley, known by the pseudonym of Harry Orchard. Orchard is a member of the Western Federation of Miners, a union, and is frequently called on to kill those who pose a problem for the union. This novel follows him as he travels the west doing his job. As he does that, he also plays a cat-and-mouse game with Charles Siringo, a detective from the Pinkerton Agency (made famous during the Civil War by thwarting the first assassination attempt against Abraham Lincoln) who is trying to track him down. Orchard also courts one of the women he meets on the train, Bella, when the novel opened. As one progressed through the novel, readers see how that relationship plays out. Another point of the novel revolved around the labor unrest of the era and implementation of martial law in Idaho, an act that angered the unions. The book ends with Orchard’s most infamous act, the assassination of Idaho’s former Governor, Frank Steunenberg, and the outcome.
This book was written in the western tradition: lots of frontier happenings, bar fights, guns, etc. Because of that, one could say it was geared more towards male readers. If my grandfather did not have Alzheimer’s, this is just the type of book he would have enjoyed (but now he does not have the focus to finish a book). However, I found it rough and the strong language was a bit much. Normally, strong language is not something I comment on, but this had more in half a chapter than most books I read have throughout. There was also a great deal of slang and non-standard English (for example, “git” for “get” or “et” for “eat”) so I do want readers to be aware as I know my library has patrons who will not read book for those two reasons. Thus, while this book was not the best fit for me, it may be for others.
As you may have already figured out, it was based on a true story. The author did grow up in and around many of the locations mentioned in the novel, something that likely helped as he wrote this book. It was in those areas that he first became acquainted with Orchard’s story.
Are you a western reader? I normally don’t read westerns, so feel free to suggest some you enjoy in the comments below so that others may discover them. Also, had you heard Orchard’s story before? I had not.
This review is based on a copy provided by FSB Associates. The book’s release date is July 26.