John Earl Sharp
Dog Ear Publishing (2018)
Reviewed by Carol Hoyer for Reader Views (8/18)
With wit and precision, John Earl Sharp wrangles a large cast of characters in “Armed Men and Armadillos.” Set in the late 1880s in Texas after the Civil War where life is hard, men with evil thoughts are found in smoke-filled saloons, and children are left to raise themselves, the author provides readers with lively dialogue, edgy prose and highly entertaining situations.
Readers meet five children between the ages of 11-15 who have learned to fend for themselves as the result of abandonment, moonshine abusing parents and encounters with an unsavory lot of characters. Clem is a young, gun-toting, aggressive female who feels she must protect her siblings against snakes, Indians, and those who want to harm them because they can. Sky is another strong child who is Indian and has been mistreated and captured to be sold as a slave by unscrupulous moonshine dealers.
The writing displayed in “Armed Men and Armadillos” is extraordinary, probing into the lawless activities, interrelationships and mindset of self-appointed bounty hunters. One can feel the aggression and anger that the ex-Civil War soldiers experience, as well as the determination and strength of abandoned children who want a safe, loving home.
The dialect suits the era and characters; one can visualize each character’s persona. Sharp provides excellent examples in the differences in language between the bounty hunters, uneducated children and those who were raised and educated by the Methodist. A great example is Pete, who appears to be somewhat slow in his language and actions, states “That crawfish might feel put upon with you crowding around his rock.” Clem, on the other hand, utilizes complete thoughts with correct grammar when she says, “You’ve been over to Samuel’s house lots of times and just how many of those times has he allowed you to come inside?”
I will say, I enjoyed “Armed Men and Armadillos” by John Earl Sharp immensely and could not put it down. Readers will love the protagonists and the story-line, as well as the hidden humorous situations the characters get involved in. I highly recommend this read for all who like humor ridden adventures.